Thirty five years ago when our current Mayor Charles Meeker migrated from Washington to Raleigh our local “Progressive’ politicians – and the Mayor joined their camp – were laboring mightily to give birth to the ‘New South.’
A generation later the ‘Progressives’ had triumphed: The old fogey southern WASP’s had been routed and whatever virtues the Old South had possessed were banished and gone with the wind and General Lee, if he was remembered at all in the public schools, had been politically corrected from the hero of Appomattox to a villain living in an unenlightened age.
Then a few more years passed – almost another generation – and a new wave of wanderers (Italian’s with names like Margiotta and Tedesco) migrated from New York and New Jersey to Dixieland and, suddenly, today, after his decades of toil and sacrifice the Mayor is watching the ‘New South’ passing away in front of his eyes and he isn’t happy about it one bit – so the other morning usually unflappable Mayor let fly in the newspaper blasting the “outsiders” who’ve taken over the School Board, sputtering, “We have people who are not from the area, don’t share our values, who are the majority on the School Board.” Maybe, the next time Mayor Meeker runs for reelection his slogan, like Jesse Helms in 1972, will be: “He’s one of us.”
Meantime, over in the 13th District in their Primary Republicans just had a debate over the same question, with Raleigh native Bernie Reeves running against a newcomer who’d settled in Wake Forest two years ago. So, curiously, we have a long-time ‘New South’ liberal and an old-line conservative voicing the same complaint – an oddity pundits in the anthropology departments at UNC and NCSU will no doubt soon be dissecting as a sign there’s some sort of mysterious new sociological force – more powerful than gravity or electro-magnetism – loose in the suburbs.
At one of the many demonstrations after the newly arrived Italians captured the school board and made short shrift of the hallmark of the ‘New South’ – busing – an upset lady lamented, ‘You’re turning back the clock to the days of Jim Crow.’
But Mayor Meeker seems to have put his finger on what’s really happening: The School Board isn’t turning back the hands of the clock – the clock is moving irresistibly forward and we’re watching the ‘Post New South Era’ being born with the Italians relegating the New South WASPs like Mayor Meeker to the dustbin of history…alongside the tattered memories of Pickett’s Charge.