Special-Edition Mailbag: 20 responses to yesterday’s CIAA and race story

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Yesterday, we published a story that drove both praise and criticism:

Yes, your leaving Charlotte to avoid black people during CIAA is racist

We also published: Don’t be that white guy during the CIAA tournament this weekend

The Agenda received a significant positive and negative feedback – below is a sample of that feedback. We publish this in an effort to be transparent and move the conversation forward.


“No. Just no. I’ll keep this short and sweet. You aren’t racist if you avoid uptown or Charlotte for that matter during the upcoming tournament. You’re making a self preserving decision and frankly, doing me and my hospital colleaugues a favor… I’ve seen the Emergency Department at the city’s leading trauma center flooded with people who’ve been stabbed, shot, and beaten up for the past three years. This year, I’ll be on the trauma team specifically designated to deal with the sickest people who come through those doors during the week and weekend of the tournament. I dread it. Our patient numbers quadruple. And violent criminals don’t care that we are trying to save lives. We are punched, threatened, spit on and sometimes even caught in the cross hairs. This is part of a job I’ve chosen to do everyday but I will not pretend that the CIAA tournament doesn’t bring significantly more violence and danger to the citizens of Charlotte. It’s undeniable. It should be abolished. I’m unapologetic on this matter. It’s not about black or white, it’s about lives.” – N

“So, it’s okay that a (self-identified) black girl can say that “Truthfully, the day parties and hangovers just aren’t my thing and I avoid crowds like the plague, so my time attending the actual tournament and subsequent celebrations was short-lived.” She can also leave “the city for a work project well prepared with an AirBNB listing of my NoDa townhouse guaranteed to cash in on the market opportunity.” But if a white person – or, presumably, someone of any other race – does the same thing, it’s different, ignorant, and perhaps even racist? Sounds pretty fishy to me. Shouldn’t we all be held to the same standards? Isn’t that the very definition of equality?” – A

“Interesting article and well-intentioned as we definitely have a CIAA tournament perception problem here in Charlotte, but as a black male, I am disappointed in her tone and the way she chose to address a serious issue that is absolutely worthy of discussion. I agree with her that what a lot of people say about the CIAA has at least a tinge of (and often a lot of), or is driven by, racism. That said, Sherrell’s attitude feels overly negative and her tone is borderline accusatory with some dangerously blanket statements about white people, the exact type of statements against us black people that we fight so hard every day to eliminate. I understand that her opinion comes from a place of passion, but I think her message would be much more effectively delivered by providing a few details on the history of the CIAA tournament and highlighting certain of our traditions that SHOULD absolutely be highlighted as being proud expressions of our culture…” – C

“I love Charlotte Agenda. I discovered it on Instagram and started reading it because it helps me stay young.  Plus, I don’t read newspapers or watch TV, so CA kinda helps me know what is going on locally… I thought I’d weigh in as to why this “white-mature-former-suburban-minivan-mom” looks forward to the CIAA every year. I LOVE the CIAA. I was so excited to move my residence to Uptown Charlotte on February 3, 2015 because I was gonna get to watch the CIAA not only from my workplace but also my sleeping place. I was gonna get a double, or rather full-time, dose of the fun and altering of perspective to my world. Why I love the CIAA…
(1) Anytime a whole gob of people show up in Uptown to do anything, I get excited. Whether it is all those drunk white people for St. Paddy’s day, or the crowds for the Panther’s games, or the traffic jams for the Hornets games (Hornets fans cannot park their cars and walk, y’all. They have to drive as close to the arena as they possibly can before they will get out of their cars. It makes for excellent panicky-traffic-jam-watching on Fifth and Trade Streets), or the ACC tourney or Speed Street, my heart starts racing. I love the action. It’s good for the local economy and it’s fantastic for the people to gather.
(2) The cars. CIAA visitors have the coolest cars that Uptown Charlotte sees each year. CIAA visitors not only drive their amazing cars to town, they drive them up and down the street. Over and over again. One of my favorite things to do it to watch all the traffic from my office or my apartment and, at the same time, look at Google maps and see ALL OF THE RED LINES on the roads. My heart swells to think of all of the people loving on Uptown Charlotte and doing some important cruising. Charlotte doesn’t get this kind of action but once a year.
(3) The clothes. CIAA peeps are WELL DRESSED people. Y’all, Uptown Charlotte workers are very boring dressers. Have you seen those uniforms that those young white guys wear? They go to lunch in packs and they ALL have on a light blue shirt and gray slacks. No jacket. No tie. Boring haircut. They all look the same and Uptown Charlotte is the duller for it. CIAA folks? Hoo boy. They always look sharp. I love the sharp dressed men but I also keep an eye out for the mature ladies (my competition) to see what they are wearing and how I might be able to tune up my wardrobe. Fashion comes to town and it is all worth noting. CIAA folks are not about sports jerseys, which is usually what “sports” denotes for dress code in Uptown Charlotte. I am most grateful that CIAA fans and visitors are dressed to impress.
(4) The music. No, I don’t go to the venues. (I beat Ted, I go to bed at 7:30 p.m.) But I love to listen to the music on the street. The recorded music that comes from the cruising cars makes me want to break out in dance. Right on the sidewalk. And I often do. It’s a party, remember? My head bobs, my feet hit the pavement with the hard beat of whichever tune a car is shouting out. I often look, smile and wave in appreciation to the folks in the cars playing the tunes. Or just look at them as they glance at the old white lady who it rocking out on the sidewalk. They might find that amusing.
(5) The interaction. I get out on the street and nod and smile at all of the visitors. I chat with them when I am out buying my lunch or a coffee. I say, “Thanks for visiting Charlotte. We love having you here.” I usually get a big smile, but mostly I am just happy that Charlotte gets to be host to the CIAA and that I get to interact with some seriously fun people. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. – J

“Ted, many/most of us are NOT the target audience for this week. It is billed as an alumni/nae event and I am willing to write CLT is NOT home to a significant number of CIAA schools’ alumni/nae. (However, yes, one member school is in CLT.) Let the visitors have their celebrations and competitions and hope they enjoy themselves safely, honestly and in good fun. Sadly, this hope is contrary to the past two years’ events when I have been living here in Uptown.” – K

“Most white people are racist… that’s what is seems Sherrell and Ted were trying to teach us with their articles. I am a white girl who hates going uptown during CIAA weekend and avoid it if at all possible. Is it because it is filled with black/brown people and I hate them? No way. It’s because it’s filled with wild parties, people yelling in the streets, inappropriate outfits, congested crowds and the smell of weed. Those are not things I enjoy so I avoid them. Other things I avoid…white/black biker week at Myrtle Beach, EpiCentre on the weekends, Concord Mills during a big race weekend, concerts events where the goal is getting drunk/high instead of being about the music, etc. Do I hate the people that go to those type events? Not at all….they’re just not situations I enjoy or the culture of the group gathering makes me uncomfortable. I think it’s pretty naive to think some/all/the majority of white people hate black people because of their skin color and I’m pretty tired of reading articles meant to make me feel bad about being white.” – A

“YES! Thank you for the posts today about racism and the CIAA tournaments. Sherrell, I can’t imagine how exhausting it must be to be continuously asked to serve as the spokesperson for all black people. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Hopefully we all listen to what you wrote and take action, so that we stop making the fight against racism your burden to bear alone. As a white person, it is my responsibility to speak up when I witness ignorance or inequality… as I inevitably will, since people feel pretty comfortable airing their racist dirty laundry around me, given the color of my skin. White people, we need to be the ones to speak up and fight back if we want to end racism. The power structure is tipped in our favor, so it’s our job to help dismantle racism and squash hateful rhetoric. BTW – for any white readers who are thinking that racism works both ways, please consider this – yes, mean words can go both ways. Police brutality, hate crimes, lynchings and institutionalized inequality generally do not. Being called a cracker once or twice in your life will never equate to a lifetime of enduring hate and a fear of being hurt for no other reason than the color of your skin. Thank you Charlotte Agenda for boldly calling this out. I’m guessing you’ll get some push back for this (I hope I’m wrong though) but you’re doing the right thing. Thank you.” – T

“Article is a bold headline with little to no facts or even rumors… I’ve never heard of whites leaving town? Bringing up race is fine, but at least back up your rant. Folks in New Orleans leave to escape Mardi Gras. Folks leave Augusta to rent house for Masters. Folks avoid downtown Savannah to avoid St Patty. But avoid CLT because of blacks is BS.” – E

“I want to respond to Sherrell’s excellent spot-on article about racism and the CIAA tournament. Yesterday at Christ Church an amazing thing happened. Bryan Stephenson who is the black leader of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery Alabama preached and spoke to our predominantly white congregation not only during the two sermons, but also during our Faith Forum during the Sunday School hour. Only time I have seen a standing ovation in the Sanctuary other than Bishop visits or Rector retirements. These are the conversations that we need to be having not only across Charlotte every day but across North Carolina and the country. Check out the Faith Forum rewind on our website where Chip Edens interviewed Bryan. Amazing, honest and heartbreaking stuff. We are days and years away from reconciliation. But if we don’t talk about it things will never change. Thank Sherrell for me as well.” – S

“I was born and raised in Charlotte (Eastover, AG, West Charlotte) and am a 3rd generation Charlotte family. I left Charlotte for 10 years and just got back a little over year ago so the excitement I have surrounding all things Charlotte, is tremendous. All that being said, I really did not like the piece written on the CIAA weekend today. It felt very immature and irrationally attacking. This quote alone, “I was informed that by February, when the games began, white people would leave Charlotte, running in fear of their lives because, God forbid, the blacks were coming to town. And they were bringing their wild parties and shameless outfits and affinity for massive traffic to the city with them” was enough to get me to stop reading, but I wanted to give feedback so I continued. To call people “racist” who leave town because they don’t want to deal with partying youth, is pretty inaccurate. To call them “racist” in coordination with the quote above, makes sense. But those are her attacking words and/or “what she was told”. I am very much in tune with Charlotte and was actually and an All-City, All-County, State All Star basketball player at West Charlotte in the 90s… and I got the hell out of the way when the CIAA came to town then too. And it certainly was not because I was “racist”. It was because I don’t like huge crowds of partying people because it makes me feel unsafe. Rightfully, seeing that multiple people were shot with guns last year and the year before. I am not sure what this piece’s point is. I understand that the writer is associated with the CIAA so it is in her interest to promote the weekend and all… but to call people “racist” who simply leave during the event, is pretty terrible. I get the history and everything the tourney is about, but why deny that large crowds of partying people potentially results in some violence and heavy traffic? People who lived in Santa Clara got the hell out of town for the Superbowl. It happens in every city across the world where large events are held. People who live there permanently, leave the area so they don’t have to deal. But now because the event hosts predominantly African American attendees, this young girl wants to call everyone who leaves a “racist”. I’m a little surprised you all put that up as your lead article. Name calling of the worst fashion. Being called a “racist” when you are not “racist” is the worst. One last point, there are exceptions to everything. Some of the people leaving probably do fall under the definition of “racist”… but just as much of an exception as the few people who attend the Tourney that will be looking for trouble.”  – R

“You guys missed the mark today, wide right in fact, on the CIAA articles. As a white, twenty somethings female I am not ashamed to admit that I venture to Tyberpalooza on CIAA weekend because of the violence that routinely occurs uptown during this event. You can fact check me but I’m pretty sure over the last 2 years alone there has been gun violence at a hotel and at the Music Factory if not other incidents that go unreported. Sherrell has no idea what it’s like to come up on a group of black men and have them gawk at you and say inappropriate things, which occurs more than just during this weekend. Instead of preaching on racism to the “white people” she should preach to her “black people” on how to act appropriately in these situations and then maybe all of the “white people” wouldn’t abandon the city. Also, the elephant in the room isn’t white people fleeing uptown, it’s the crime, the random shootings, the fights, the harassment that we (as white people) endure, it’s the clash of culture between the aggressive and the passive. Maybe a white person that stays in town should write about their first hand experiences to let the “brown faces” see how it really impacts us. I agree you guys should push the envelope every once in a while but wow, this was totally unexpected and not appreciated”. – A

“Talking about white, black, race and the CIAA is not really creating a conversation thats going to reconcile the way we view this event. Why not just cover the events, talk about whats happening and make it feel accessible to the rest of us? At this point as a young white female I actually don’t feel like it is a place for me to be accepted at if I were to attend the festivities. Seeing headlines about being racists if you don’t stay in the city or being that WHITE guy does NOT do anything to skew my interest in being a part of CIAA.” – B

“Are you kidding me?!?! “People would leave Charlotte, running in fear of their lives because, God forbid, the blacks were coming to town.” This is the most ridiculous and, may I say “racist”, inflammatory quote I have read in a long time. We are not living in 1960… My son attended a university in Charlotte which has a substantial percentage of African Americans in its student body. It never crossed my mind to “fear for his life”!! However, if you care to listen to a white woman’s actual experience with CIAA and possibly learn a bit in the process, here you go. We came for a weekend visit in years past to spend some family time with our son. We had no idea it was tournament time, nor did we really care… until the weekend was over. We witnessed first hand the rudeness, the sense of entitlement and the shocking audacity of some of the attendees. This behavior is, by no means, unique to one race or another. But when almost every encounter a person has in one weekend is marked by such behaviors, it does give one pause. My son worked in the hotel industry while in Charlotte and his experience of this rude, entitlement behavior at the CIAA tournament was only equaled by the uber rich. … Maybe the “white flight” is simply because the behavior of a portion of attendees is off putting, rude, and annoying…nothing more sinister than that…” – M

“I have one thing to say about CIAA. How is charlotte to embrace this tournament if no one but alumni and parents go to the games. I have actually worked this tournament at the Marriott and it’s a shame. People come from all over the place some to watch the game most to cause trouble. I’m talking about making our lives as a Marriott employee hell. From bringing their own fryers to fry food in their room to us having to kick people out of the hotel for just being down right rude (name calling of staff, racial slurs). When I was down all I saw was a huge drunken party littered with people just standing on the street corner and never once stepping in to actually celebrate what they are there for which is basketball. I don’t think it’s racist it’s the unfortunate truth that no one wants to go uptown during this because of the fact no one is there to celebrate what’s actually going on. I personally don’t tell people to avoid it because there are back people but I do tell people this event is not a fun one to be in uptown for. So that’s why it’s hard for me as a citizen to embrace this event.” – J

“In full disclosure, I’m the very definition of WASP. And unfortunately, I also expect this fact may invalidate my opinion if it is not glowingly positive about this piece. However, the article cites a number of rational reasons why the CIAA event may be an event worth avoiding: wild parties, traffic, “mass chaos” (according to the author’s assumption of the “white perception”). If these attributes are out of character for this venue in Charlotte, whether from a white population or not, why is not a perfectly human response to avoided it, but rather predominantly racial? Further, it seems this as an event which is intended to target a specific demographic segment, and yet the piece failed to answer these questions: Are there reasons why people who are not black should feel this is an event which supports their interests, should feel comfortable, have fun, etc.? And finally, if the answer is “yes,” is this an intended or unintended design of the event? Rather, the summarized message seemed to be, “If you avoid this event, and you are not black, then you may be a racist.” If the intent was to humanize this event outside of social/racial boundaries, to what extent have you or the author considered the perspective of someone who apparently falls outside of the targeted demographic? Generally, these pieces are frustrating to me because they approach the issue from the same one sided perspective as those whom they intend to criticize. I found this one to be particularly hypocritical–particularly because the AUTHOR, who I am assuming is black, is avoiding this event for all the reasons white people are assumed be avoiding it, other than the fact that presumably she is not avoiding black people, whom white people are assumed to be avoiding. Ultimately, this piece seems to be fueling racial tension rather than address the perfectly human reasons to avoid the CIAA event for a portion of Charlotte’s residents. While I applaud CA’s effort to provide a progressive social conscience for the city, this piece misses the mark. – C

“Thank you for your honesty this morning!! I have to explain historically black colleges to a lot of my non-melanin friends. I did not attend a historically black college (HBCU), my father, sister and niece did attend. My father attended Lincoln University, which was the first institution to provide higher education in arts and sciences to black male youth. My sister and niece chose to attend Virginia State University. I consider myself a lifelong learner, often wondering, if I had chosen an HBCU, would I have finished my degree. Education in America is paramount, the HBCU’s provide a service that builds strength within a culture that is a minority. The heritage that exist at these colleges and universities is profound, and often overlooked. Possibly being raised in Virginia, where HBCU’s are very prevalent is a reason they mean more to me, maybe it’s because I’m black. Whatever the reason, I see the CIAA tournament celebrate progress and accolades. While working at a luxury retailer, I financially benefit, I also respect the culture that surrounds the tournament. I can distinguish between “thugs” and respected people, they are found in every culture. The jaw dropping dollar amount this tournament brings is epic! The “great exit” away from the city is disheartening, if it is to avoid a specific culture. I understand, if the reason is traffic and chaos, check the motives for avoiding uptown this week. Keep up the awesome Charlotte Agenda.” – K

“Thank you for your work with Charlotte Agenda – I really enjoy catching up every morning. You guys make great content that encourages active discussion in the community. That being said, I take issue with the recent opinion pieces about the CIAA tournament. I’m a southern white guy, but I’m not your typical redneck – I am a member of diversity groups at work and voted for Obama twice. I moved to Charlotte two years ago. During both CIAA tournaments, there have been shooting incidents related to the tournament. Can we at least acknowledge that fact? Race aside, I would stay out of Uptown for any event with such a track record. I’m sure I’m not alone among so-called “racists.” – J

“Love the Agenda, but in a time of political polarization, and just the general lack of decorum from our elected officials and athletes, I expect, hope, and our city deserves for better out of you guys. You can address the issues that’s fine, but to say I’m racist for leaving uptown during CIAA weekend is crazy and you guys know it. Looks like an immature and cheap play for clicks, which unfortunately, it looks like you’ve gotten exactly what you wanted. I expect that out of our news outlets on the far left and far right… but not you guys. You’re better than this.” – C

“As a subscriber to the Charlotte Agenda, I find this article, from the title on down, to be a pathetic attempt at media/journalism. To write an opinion piece attacking the values of residents of Charlotte because they choose to leave during that weekend is race-baiting nonsense. Perhaps people want to leave to avoid the traffic and crowds? The article is not backed by any numbers, facts, or even quotes other than the lazy opinion of the writer. I think The Agenda may want to take a hard look at what kind of outfit you want to be. If if continues to generate click-bait articles like this I will unsubscribe in the near future.” – J

“I am a white male that was raised in Charlotte. I went to a predominately African-American high school, West Charlotte, and have friends of all color and race that I remain close to today. I also know that Charlotte is a mess the CIAA weekend because 200,000 people ascend on downtown causing traffic & population congestion, that also causes overcrowding of neighborhood bars and restaurants as well. It has nothing to do with the color of their skin, but the sheer volume of people that creates issues. I actually went to the Final Party of the CIAA weekend many years ago. It was a nightmare trying to find a place to park with all the roads shut off, then having to walk 30 minutes to get a party that was oversold and extremely crowded. Only to walk another 30 minutes to get back to our car to sit in traffic trying to get out of downtown. Last year I ended up at All-American Pub after we tried to get into the Young Jeezy concert that sold out. It was packed, and impossible to get any drinks, so we went to Jackalope Jack’s on 7th, that was one-in-one out as well. We finally got beer and wine from Harris Teeter to sit on a friend’s back deck to avoid the crowds. I have left Charlotte a few different years to be able to relax over the CIAA weekend with no thoughts what-so-ever about the color of the people in my City. I didn’t go downtown to deal with the mess of the Belk Bowl this year either because I don’t cheer for NC State or Mississippi St… not because I hate football. In addition, I left town for the DNC a few years ago too, I guess that makes me apolitical as well. Frankly, I’m appalled that you published such an ignorant article… shame on you.” – J

“…Qdoba has a cover charge, Ruth Chris has 2 hour wait times at 10AM, and my parking lot for work has erected a giant event tent and I have to find new parking for the week. Calling your readership racist seems to be a bit much. I’d skip town if this was the same effect of the Greek Festival.” – J

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Ted Williams
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Publisher, golfer, dad and magician (seriously).