In Wilmington, North Carolina, a local man with two children in a public elementary school recently noticed that there seemed to be some racial discrimination behind certain policies at the school, and he spoke up. As a result of his concern and action, he can no longer set foot on any school property throughout the county.
An Emperor once banned all philosophers from Rome and his popularity instantly increased. I don’t think that’s going to be the result for our local Superintendent of Schools who has banned Clyde Edgerton from all New Hanover County North Carolina school grounds.
I almost never blog about local events. But this one has national relevance and universal human resonance, so please indulge me for a moment about this man, Clyde, and his current exile.
Lest you think that this individual barred from school property must be some felonious gun toting, drug selling, rabble rousing, drunken, foul mouthed gang recruiter named ‘Clyde Edgerton,’ I should point out up front that it’s the University of North Carolina at Wilmington Kenan Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing, and North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame author of Rainey, Walking Across Egypt, The Floatplane Notebooks, Killer Diller, In Memory of Junior, and on and on including the Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers: Advice to Dads of All Ages Clyde Edgerton, the amazingly artistic painter, guitarist, and astute banjo player Clyde Edgerton—yeah, the Renaissance Man Who Chooses To Live in small beautiful Wilmington Clyde Edgerton, one of the few people in the state or the nation whose mere presence on county school property would be in itself an education for all the students who beheld him or had the chance to interact with him. That’s the one who has been banned from ever setting foot again on school grounds in our county.
Of course, Socrates was given poison to drink because all the good he was doing for his town was interpreted as bad and he therefore shared the treatment of many great people through the ages. At least Clyde hasn’t been handed a hemlock cocktail, tarred and feathered, or invited to a big bonfire cookout featuring Roasted Author, like so many of his benevolent predecessors who crossed The Powers That Be.
Mr. Edgerton, according to our newspaper here, had been working actively as a tutor at Forest Hills Elementary School in Wilmington. Stephen Hawking was apparently unavailable for this role, Mother Theresa has long been out of the picture, and Billy Graham can’t travel like he once did. So instead we got Clyde Edgerton as a volunteer tutor for one of our schools, until he was just barred from setting foot on the property of this or any such county institution. His crime was working to make sure that some of the best opportunities at the school were available to all qualified children, regardless of race. And in doing so, he offended our superintendent. As I read on in the Wilmington StarNews piece about this insanity, it seemed to me that in this particular case, the emperor truly has no clothes. And if that makes no sense to you, it’s likely because you never had a Clyde Edgerton in your life, or on your school property.
For those who want more details on what happened to lead to such craziness, here’s the link to the news story Overwhelmingly White. I’ve been told that there will be at least two or three more articles in the news soon to expose the entire story in all its ugliness.
The sins of the malefactor seem to have consisted in his contacting other parents to see if they had been informed about a new and desirable school program, and whether they had been given a chance to put forward their children’s names to be included. Several more white parents were also concerned about the procedures being employed and tried to make sure that their nonwhite fellow moms and dads knew of the program, but they were strongly discouraged from their efforts. Clyde’s plight is just the most highly visible and incongruous of the results. And it’s a decree he learned of only when he arrived at school one day to do his normal tutoring and was denied entrance.
It’s Another Big Mistake in North Carolina, and is somehow deeply consonant with other such mistakes of late, which have tended to be authoritarian and exclusionary in various ways. Those who don’t agree with the odd Powers That Be should just “get out of our yard and go home.” This is the unfortunate childish mentality that currently prevails. But it’s surely not just my home state of North Carolina. We’re now seeing nationwide a frightening drift toward harsh authoritarian sensibilities that aren’t open to disagreement, rational discourse, or correction. I’m sure things like this happen in cities and towns all around out nation all too often. And when they do, we should speak up. So I’ve written our local paper. I’ve done this blog. I’ve gone to social media. I've written about it on The Huffington Post where, so far, over 5,000 people have been moved to hit the "Like" button. Thank you for your support. And I hope many more of my neighbors will protest this thing as well. It’s the 21st Century, Y’all. But not, apparently, all throughout my otherwise mostly wonderful state.
I hope this outrageous ban can be reversed right away, for the greater good of our—in other respects—fine community. And Clyde: If not, then you’re welcome on my property any time.