Silver Rights

News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.

Friday, June 10, 2005  

News: Power, poverty and Pinehurst

For as long as I can remember, my home state, North Carolina, has been a vacation Valhalla for the wealthy. Among its attractions are some of the best golf courses in the country. Two weeks from now, the Pinehurst area will host the most prestigious of tournaments -- the United States Open. 'Pinehurst' is not just a name for me. My mother grew up there. Among the things I would notice when I visited as a child was the absence of running water and indoor toilets in many homes in what was referred to as "the colored section." Well, decades have passed. But, that has not changed. The New York Times recently painted a portrait of the two faces of Pinehurst, privilege for the white and middle-class, poverty for the black and poor.

PINEHURST, N.C., June 2 - Golf has made Moore County rich. There are spas, country clubs and new $2 million homes. The United States Open, to be held later this month on the most famous of the county's 43 golf courses, is expected to bring $124 million to the state.

While predominately white areas of the county, like Pinehurst, are thriving, some black areas lack even basic services like sewers and garbage collection.

But as developers rush to provide "resort quality" amenities in the newest subdivisions, some neighborhoods have been left behind - without sewers, police service, garbage pickup or even, in some cases, piped water.

These enclaves, Jackson Hamlet, Midway and Waynor Road, are virtually all black. They butt up against, or are even completely surrounded by, affluent towns that are mostly white: Pinehurst, Aberdeen and Southern Pines.

. . .Excluding heavily minority areas from town boundaries is a common but little examined practice, particularly in small towns in the South, civil rights advocates and geographers say. With the U.S. Open beginning on June 16 on the Pinehurst No. 2 golf course, residents of the three black neighborhoods and their advocates are making a concerted effort for the first time to win more services, holding news conferences and giving tours.

Local officials' responses to inquiries about why such broad differences exist are a study in knowing and unknowing race and class bias. Paternalism predominates. The white people who hold power in Moore County believe they know what's best for black population there -- the status quo.

• "I will admit Moore County waited way too long and should have been doing this stuff 20, 25 years ago," [County Commissioner Michael] Mr. Holden said, pointing out that in the past 10 years the county has used grant money to extend water or sewer service to some minority communities. But, he added, "It's a matter of biting it off little by little, and doing chunks of it and moving forward."

. . .Asked if the county could just pay outright for the pipes and other necessities (one estimate is that it would cost $1.5 million to $1.75 million to establish sewer services for Jackson Hamlet), Mr. Holden said, "Then where do you stop?"

• "Some of the ones who are really pushing all this don't have everybody on board like they would like you to think," said Bill Zell, the town manager of Aberdeen.

• When Frank Quis, the mayor of Southern Pines, was asked about racial exclusion, he said: "Are you telling me everyone on Waynor Road is of a certain race? I mean, that's kind of odd."

• "Honey, I work with blacks and I love to work with the blacks," said Virginia Saunders, in her 10th year as a county commissioner. "I wish you could talk to some of the black people that I have helped."

Let a Southerner translate those remarks for you.

Holden -- We will do as little for'em as we can get away with. Give'em sewers and they'll want garbage pick up and police services next.

Zell -- If I can convince a good darkie or two to disagree with a need for sewers, running water and garbage pickup, that nixes the deal. The others? Bad ones. Outside agitators must've got to'em. You folks said y'all from Nu Yawk?

Quis -- Racism? So what?

Saunders -- I love'm when they stay in their place.

There is no real reason why the kinds of services most Americans take for granted can't be extended to the African-American communities around Pinehurst. Moore County is the eighteenth most wealthy in the state. The county's median income exceeds the national average. It can easily afford to provide basic services to the 500 or so households in the blighted areas. Those residents continue to live in Third World conditions because the people in power approve of the status quo.

Reasonably related

National Public Radio in North Carolina is examining the revealing economic disparities in the Pinehurst area.

Listen to a NPR report about one of the African-American enclaves, Jackson Hamlet.

posted by J. | 11:00 PM