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When I moved here, I heard a lot about a line that had been drawn in the community.
You were either a true Southerner, born and bred to appreciate the simple things in life and a slower pace, like chatting with your neighbors over a glass of sweet tea while enjoying the cool coastal breeze.
Or you were a Yankee—a Northern infiltrator who brought unappreciated wealth to a simple community, only to overrun it with gigantic houses in gated communities.
The Southerners were certain, I was told, the Northerners were determined to change the county to be more like the North from where they came.
The Northerners told me they were just happy to live here and they wanted to be a part of the community they cared about (and had invested in.)
While I consider myself a Southerner, as a native of a border state and a person with no real cumulative wealth, I didn’t know which side I’d be on or who would welcome me here.
But the longer I was here, the more I realized the divisions within this county are far more complex than North or South. There are man-made, hard-thought-out divisions everywhere.
You were either born here or you weren’t.
You may identify yourself by the town or island where you reside.
The people down in Carolina Shores, let’s say, probably feel like they have little or nothing in common with the folks up in Leland, who may not even realize they don’t live in New Hanover County.
The kind folks up in Northwest and Navassa may have never journeyed down to take a walk on Bird Island. And the good folks out in Longwood and Ash probably just want to be left alone to enjoy their quiet way of life.
But still, if the virtual lines drawn between towns and other areas aren’t enough, people go further and identify themselves by the communities in which they live.
You might hear someone say they’re from Sea Trail before they’d indicate they were from Sunset Beach.
Or someone may say they are from Winding River, which is a development, not a town at all.
With all the divisions and differences lived out daily, it’s hard to get a real sense of unity here.
I’ve never heard someone proudly announce, “I’m from Brunswick County!” It’s always something more specific, more proudly identifiable.
It’s a wonder anything gets accomplished with all the Us-versus-Them attitudes. Who really knows what side of the line (which line?) any of us stand on?
But as complicated and diverse as these lines are, a more dangerous line is being drawn in this community—a line about race.
Aren’t there enough small-minded people in the world who do this on their own (and who deserve to have a stand taken against them) than having our local elected and community officials doing this?
For the past several months we have covered allegations from commissioner Charles Warren and from local NAACP President Bernest Hewett that Warren and others are being racially discriminated against.
If we could find any facts to back up these assertions, I assure you, this newspaper would be the first to call out those who are guilty and call for immediate and drastic change.
But try as we may, we have found no facts to back up the allegations. It’s a matter of situational interpretation and feelings, not cold hard facts.
As a newspaper editor and someone who has grown to love Brunswick County, I call upon everyone not to make the divides in this community greater than they are.
We can all overcome, or at least ignore, whether or not someone wants to be identified with the community where they live, but we shouldn’t tolerate anyone mistreating others (or falsely alleging discrimination) based on the color of skin—any skin, any race, any nationality.
It’s time for everyone in this community to join together, to be proud of living in a beautiful, ecologically and geographically diverse community.
Instead of being a place where we isolate ourselves by classifications, we should unite in celebrating our differences, learn from one another and make this a more open, accepting and wonderful place to live.
The Fourth of July is around the corner. This will be a perfect time for everyone to put aside prejudices—both real and perceived—and remember the diversity that created a great foundation for this nation.
We all deserve that, and those who think otherwise should be ashamed.