Siler City, North Carolina, once considered the quientessential Southern small town, has become home to a population that is nearly half Latino. NPR reports:
In 2000, David Duke, the former KKK grand wizard turned Louisiana politician, led an anti-immigration rally in Siler City, putting the town uncomfortably in the national news.
In fact, though, the response was not what Duke hoped for. Several dozen supporters showed up to cheer for the former Klansman, but most locals stayed away. And if Duke hoped to inflame anti-immigrant sentiment in town, his appearance seems to have had the opposite effect.
“This was not representative of the mindset here in Siler City at all,” says Barry Hayes, owner and operator of the town’s radio station, WNCA-AM. “And we kind of hung our heads when that happened and couldn’t wait for it to go away.”
Duke forced residents and their leaders to take a position, says Paul Cuadros, who coaches Siler City’s high school soccer teams and teaches journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Were they going to stand down there with David Duke and the Klan against the Latino population, or were they going to try and find some other kind of accommodation to be able to live [together] in [this] town?”
Eight years later, while tensions and resentments remain, most everyone in Siler City agrees that the racial climate is calmer than it’s been in years. The embarrassment of the Duke rally led local leaders to step up efforts to accommodate the Latino population. And with time, many longtime residents, black and white, have begun to find common ground with their Latino neighbors in the meeting places of small-town life.
Listen to the full story at NPR.