To the Editor,
My name is Ryan Denney. I grew up in Mount Airy, was raised by a Christian family, have a mother that is a minister of music in a Baptist church, and will never apologize for being a Christian. I don’t think that it is wrong that men or women in the South call people, “ma’am, sir, sweetie, or honey.”
In this instance, however, I find it infinitely more important to announce that being from Mount Airy does not mean that I am a bigot, does not mean that I have an insular world-view, does not mean that I cling to a past that will never resurface, and most important, that being a Christian does not mean that I hate minorities, immigrants, those that are transgender, those that are poor, do not impose on women’s rights, and that those facts do not make me any less of a Christian or a proud Mount Airy native.
I am abundantly sure by my first two paragraphs that you all know by now that this message is in response to what was written about Mount Airy (Mayberry) in a recent Washington Post article. I was extremely saddened by the characterization of the town by a national media source. I was even more saddened, however, by the fact that several prominent members of the town made it so easy for them to do so.
It is time for the town to look in the mirror and decide what they want to be. The town can continue to pray for a time when “people knew their place.” The town can continue to pray that textile and manufacturing jobs come back. The town can continue to pray that, as Thresa Tucker put it, that “black people stop thinking they’re owed something.”
Or, the town can move forward and realize that the world is changing. The town can realize that we all deserve the same place and the same opportunities. The town can realize that we are one country where all men and women deserve the same inalienable rights. The town can come to grips with the fact that we are not the only municipality that has lost textile and manufacturing jobs and that most are not going to come back due to global competition.
And most importantly, the town can realize that systemic racism is an actual problem and that the majority of African Americans do not grow up believing that they deserve something and instead are faced with real obstacles put in front of them over the course of decades and centuries of American racial prejudice.
I do not intend for this to be a lecture. I intend for this to be a call to all, both in Mount Airy and elsewhere, to understand that it is time to stop clinging to our extreme beliefs, both liberal and conservative, and realize that there can be a productive path forward for all of us. Mount Airy, and small town America as a whole, would be much better off if we could. If we can all learn to understand another’s plight in life, we will also learn to understand our own lives, our own reality, our own churches, and our own communities much better. If we could only do that, how much better would the world be?