CNN, Greensboro, race and doughnuts

by Brian Clarey

Sometimes we get the feeling that the national media just doesn’t understand Greensboro, which, when it isn’t confusing us with Greenville, seems determined to reduce us to unflattering rankings on listicles or spotlight bizarre occurrences like the ninja who crashed into the Apple store.

Not so with the Greensboro pieces coming from CNN as part of the news network’s Discovering America series, the first of which is a snapshot profile of the city titled, “After 50 years of racial strife: Why is Greensboro still so tense?” by Thom Patterson. And if you haven’t read it yet, then you are seriously out of the loop.

It’s pretty good, as far as these kinds of profiles go. This is not some boilerplate, throwaway piece slapped together for mass consumption. Patterson has clearly done his homework — judging from the issues he raises, trends he cites and people he interviewed, we suspect he has been spending some time in the archives. And his take is a thoughtful one, though not without its detractors.

The big beef with the piece is that Patterson views the city through the prism of race relations, citing the two most significant events in the city’s recent history — the 1960 Woolworth’s sit-ins and the 1979 Greensboro Massacre — and looking for evidence of a lasting legacy.

Problem is, he seems to have found one. Patterson backs up his theses with examples of geographic segregation, economic inequality and dissatisfaction from both sides of the equation that longtime residents of the city recognize as a part of the local discourse.

True, there is more to Greensboro than a history of racial tension, but that doesn’t mean that this conflict doesn’t exist.

And he raises an excellent point, first brought up in YES! Weekly back in March: “For the first time, Greensboro’s minorities outnumber white residents, 51.6 percent to 48.4 percent, census data showed. The city’s African American population increased by nearly 31 percent in the past decade.” Either those numbers mean something to you or they don’t, but they are undeniable fact.

Also fact: A reputable journalist took a long, hard look at Greensboro and this is what he came away with. And just because it makes people uncomfortable doesn’t invalidate his impressions.

People seem to feel better about the next two installments, blog posts about Donut World and Neese’s Liver Pudding. But if they decide to tackle barbecue, expect some more discontent.

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