Racism and Greenville

I want to comment on this. The person who wrote this grew up at BJU, right on campus, immersed in that world.

I lived in Greenville from the time I was 13 (1962) until we moved to North Carolina about ten years later. Then we moved back to Travelers Rest from 1986 until 1992.

I married a guy who grew up in Greenville, outside the Bob Jones bubble. He never attended church regularly. He went to Paris High School  and graduated in 1959. He has remained in contact with people he knew in high school all his life – and most of those people have never left Greenville.

This was my experience: I was at Bob Jones Academy until the spring of 1964, the end of my tenth grade year of high school. So I only spent two of the ten years I lived in Greenville in the BJU environment.  I transferred to Wade Hampton High School, where I graduated in 1966. From there, I went to Greenville General Hospital School of Nursing, where I graduated in August of 1969.

I think I know something about what “the Greenville community” knew “well” about BJU.

When I was in the eleventh grade at Wade Hampton, I had an English teacher who was just super. I think of her today as probably the best teacher I ever had. She was young, right out of college, energetic, dedicated and for the time and place, very liberal. She had graduated from Furman.

One spring weekend, toward the end of that school year (1965), she had a few college friends over to her apartment for dinner and a party. It was nice weather, and they ended up out on the patio which was enclosed by a privacy fence. However, it wasn’t private enough.

The group was interracial. That was bad in 1965 Greenville, but what was worse was that they were dancing.  And my teacher danced with a black guy.

The fallout was swift and brutal. She was allowed to finish teaching that year and then her contract was not renewed. I do not know what happened to her or where she went. The school district that got her was lucky indeed.

I do remember her sitting on her desk (right on the desktop with her feet dangling – she was short), telling us what happened. She wanted us to hear about it from her and not from rumors. There was no romantic relationship between her and the black guy. They were simply friends from college.

I graduated from Wade Hampton High School in 1966. There were no black students in my graduating class and I’m almost certain there were no black students in the whole school at that time. I never went to school with a black person in my whole life, ever.

There were no black students in the Greenville General Hospital School of Nursing, either. There were either one or two classes after mine (the school closed down due to the rise of the two-year nursing programs) – and to my knowledge, they never graduated a black student ever. And I took a good many classes at Furman as well – all GGH nursing students took their academic courses at Furman. No black students in sight.

So, into the early seventies, I absolutely know that Greenville schools remained pretty much segregated, in spite of the fact that Brown v. the Board of Education had been decided before I started kindergarten.

My husband Dave is ten years older than I am. This is where he went to school – Paris High School (now torn down). Obviously, no black students.

I asked him about all this. I showed him the original post above and asked him what he thought. His reply was that the Greenville community did not think it was even slightly odd that BJU didn’t have black students – nobody else did either.

The Greenville community thought of BJU as weird, strict, and very religious. They pretty much still do.  They did not think of them as racist, because the Greenville community was also racist.

When I started working for money at the hospital after I graduated, I spent a year or so in the premature nursery (what today would be called the “intensive care nursery”). One of my co-workers was black. She was the first black person I ever knew who was my peer. She had gone to nursing school in the North, married a Southern guy from Greenville and moved.

She used to tell me stories about the culture shock she experienced when she moved South. Everything was odd to her. Her mother-in-law cooked chitterlings. She thought that was the most disgusting thing imaginable.

But the story I’ve remembered all these years was about when she and her husband (a fairly successful brickmason) bought their house. She called a realtor and made an appointment to meet him at the realty office to go look at some houses. When she got there, she said that the look on his face told her everything. He was horrified. He’d put together a group of homes for them to go look at, thinking she was white. He thought that because she had no black accent.

He had to back up, make excuses and come up with a different list.

And this was in the early seventies.

So when the commenter above says that BJU has this deep-seated, terribly ingrained history of racism, he’s talking about the whole South, and certainly the whole of Greenville County.

While it’s absolutely true that Bob Jones University remained racist while the rest of world more or less (we can argue all day about how much progress the country as a whole has made, and the South in particular) moved on, it’s not as stark as he makes it sound.

On TSG, they are trying very hard to paint a picture of this very racist institution sitting in the center of a city that was progressive and integrated and oh, so lovely.  That is simply not true.

And it is true that Dave knows about the SCOTUS case where BJU lost their tax exempt status, but he knows about that because he’s married to me, and I told him about it. The average person in Greenville does not know about it or care about it. To them, BJU is just religious and weird.

The sports whiteout does not have a different connotation when BJU does it than when any other school does it. Saying it doesn’t make it so.


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