Printed from the Charlotte Observer -
Posted: Friday, Jun. 29, 2012

'Tales' provoke a (mostly) civil war

By Elizabeth Leland
Published in: Democratic Convention

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When I set out to write a few stories about our region of North Carolina, I never expected to raise such a hornet’s nest of reaction.

One caller blasted me as rude and un-Southern for “not having the decency” to taste livermush. Others complained about the story that launched the series because I said the South is haunted by the legacy of slavery.

“It’s idiotic for people to keep bringing up the subject of slavery, since it was outlawed here almost 150 years ago and no one alive owned slaves or was a slave,” a reader wrote on “The only reason we keep discussing slavery and racism is because LIBERALS keep bringing it up -- the rest of us have, shall we say, MOVED ON.”

Another reader, however, said: “I really enjoyed Sunday’s article, highlighting the "Queen City," as you did. You educated natives, as well as, newcomers and those yet to arrive, rather colorfully and appropriately, my friend!”

I’ve heard from hundreds of people, online, through email, and over the phone.

“Jewish Life??????” one reader e-mailed when the series began and we ran a list of future stories. “This isn’t New York or the Florida east coast!!!! This is not at all descriptive of Charlotte. Was your editor asleep when he approved this?”

Another critic described the topics I’m writing about as bizarre and unrelated to Charlotte. “A Vietnamese immigrant who can’t speak or read English???? A missionary working 30-40 miles from here? An artist painting about 50 year old wounds? Come on....Where are things people can use today to know and love our city? This writer should be canned and banned from future stories about Charlotte by the CO.”

And another: “This whole article is not fit for swilling hogs, and is an embarrassment to whoever allowed it to be published.”

A lot of people have called or written to say they are enjoying the stories, but their comments aren’t nearly as colorful. “I’m going to keep them for my mom, who is seriously thinking of coming to live (in Charlotte) and needs to read all about our fair city,” one woman said. “She’s a real northerner.”

Some readers thought that I unfairly pointed out our flaws rather than the good things about the South.

“With just a cursory glance, I can count 10 negative stereotype references that don’t leave the reader with a positive impression of Charlotte,” said Chris Wall of the National Pork Producers Council in Washington, D.C. He grew up in Winston-Salem, studied at UNC Charlotte and lived here seven years.

“I’m not arguing to ignore the past,” he wrote, “but helping to perpetuate negative impressions of southerners doesn’t help. Are you a southerner?”

For the record: Yes, Chris, I’m a southerner. I grew up in Charleston, graduated from UNC Chapel Hill and have called North Carolina home ever since, with the last 27 years in Charlotte.

I did marry a Yankee.

I don’t eat pork.

But I do love the South.

Leland: 704-358-5074

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