But neither does anyone else: We don't know what life is like in Franklin County, Virginia.
We don't know what life is like there for the typical black resident. We don't know what life is like for white residents of the county, or for anyone else.
Full disclosure: In large part, we don't know these things because we read the Washington Post!
In last Saturday's print editions, the Post published a lengthy account of life in the "extremely white" county. The essay was built around the experiences of three young women (ages 23, 29 and 32) who "are trying to found a chapter of Black Lives Matter there."
There's zero reason why these women shouldn't do what they're trying to do. Something good may even come of their efforts, although there's no guarantee.
That said, what exactly is being protested at the various "protests" the Post report describes? The Post makes little attempt to answer that question, though it does make this claim early on:
NATANSON (8/1/20): No one expected the protests following [George] Floyd’s killing to reach Franklin County. Not its White people, not its young people and certainly not its older Black residents, who fought to integrate the schools in the 1960s before watching—with horror that gave way, over decades, to dull despair—as things settled back to how they’d been, with Black people living as second-class citizens in fact, if no longer in law.According to the Washington Post, black people are still "living as second-class citizens" in Franklin County. They're licing as second-class citizens there "in fact, if no longer in law."
That's a remarkable claim to put into print. But what does it actually mean?
At no point in this sprawling report does the Post try to nail that point down. In fairness, the putative author of the report does write this, quite a bit later on:
NATANSON: [The three women] agreed: No real change would come until Franklin County hired more Black teachers, reformed the laws that put too many Black bodies behind bars, and passed a stimulus package creating Black jobs and boosting Black-owned businesses. On the advice of Penny Edwards Blue, who is mentoring the trio, they planned to split their chapter of Black Lives Matter into three committees: education, law and the economy.In that passage, we seem to be told that the Franklin County Public Schools don't have enough black teachers. Also, that too many black people end up in prison or jail in Franklin County, and that the county has failed to create a stimulus package to create black jobs and help black-owned businesses.
Question! Has any county, in any state, ever created such a stimulus package? We have no idea, nor did the Washington Post attempt to explore the nature of this apparent suggestion.
Meanwhile, how many black teachers does the county employ?
(Aside from Anthony Swann, that is. At present, Swann is Franklin County's "Teacher of the Year.")
Also, which county laws should be reformed? To what extent are these laws placing too many people in jail?
In a very lengthy profile, the Post makes no attempt to address such basic points. Instead, it pretends that a "town pool" which isn't a town pool is still refusing to let black people swim—and it peddles matter like this, all part of its shocking and frightening "County Confidential:"
NATANSON: In fact, much of the county still looked and felt the way [Malala] Penn’s grandparents remembered it. Black people still didn’t drive far into Endicott, a mountainous region that had once served as a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan. The businesses and the town council—and the police force, and the musicians invited to sing at the local performance center—were still overwhelmingly White.Before we drive intto the mountainous region called Endicott, consider those other complaints.
If Natanson actually wrote this piece, she notes here that the businesses in Franklin County are "still overwhelmingly white." So is the local police force. Also the town council.
Presumably, that's a reference to the Rocky Mount Town Council. Also, to the Rocky Mount Police Department and the Franklin County's Sheriff Department. Cue Ed McMahon:
How overwhelmingly white are they? How overwhelmingly white are these various entities? We don't have the slightest idea, because the Post didn't bother to say.
For whatever it may be worth, the web site of the Sheriff's Department features a photo of eight employees, four of whom are black. The town council has seven members, one of whom is black.
That said, should anyone be surprised if this county's businesses and government organizations are "overwhelmingly white?" The county itself is 90 percent white! Why would anyone be surprised to learn that the county's various businesses are also predominantly white?
We don't believe, not for a minute, that anyone who graduated from Harvard ever composed such dreck. We'll guess that, for whatever reason, the old boys of the Washington Post have decided to ride again, and they're using the young Harvard grad as a beard over their clownishly incompetent journalistic performance.
If that's what happened, it also explains the report's three cites of the Klan.
The passage we've posted above is the third of these three wonderfully scary cites. That said is it true? Do black people still refuse to drive into the mountainous region called Endicott?
We decided to check it out. This is what the leading authority says about that mountainous region, and no, we aren't making this up:
Endicott, Virginia (GNIS FID: 1477306) is a small community in Franklin County, Virginia. Also known as "Long Branch, Virginia". There are only a few buildings left in the community. The elevation of Endicott is 1,158 feet. Endicott appears on the Endicott U.S. Geological Survey Map.As best we could tell, the "Endicott area" or "Endicott region" seems to be a part of Ferrum, Virginia, a census-designated place which is home to Ferrum College. The town's population was 2,043 at the 2010 census, "an increase of over fifty percent from the 1,313 reported in 2000."
Before World War II, Endicott had several general stores, a mill, two schools, a post office and was a voting precinct. However, since that time the town has lost population, and now has only a couple of churches still being used. The voting precinct was closed in 1997.
At any rate, how about it? Do black people drive into the Endicott region?
We're going to guess that the answer is no, but neither does anyone else! Our research produced a somewhat similar result when we decided to check this later scary Klan thriller:
NATANSON: [The three women] decided to hold their fourth protest outside the Wendy’s restaurant where Craighead’s mom used to work.The Post should be ashamed of itself for publishing garbage like that.
It was the perfect location, on a heavily trafficked road that led to Westlake Corner, a town just a little north of Rocky Mount. In the 1940s and 1950s, the area had served as a hub for the Ku Klux Klan, Ruby Penn and her sisters remembered; nowadays, it was just very White. Craighead, Poindexter and Malala Penn had never demonstrated this close to Westlake before. They didn’t think anyone had.
Just for the record, Westlake Corner is 18.5 miles from Rocky Mount, or at least so Mapquest says. The leading authority on the community describes Westlake Corner like this:
Westlake Corner is a census-designated place in Franklin County, Virginia, United States. The population was 976 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Roanoke Metropolitan Statistical Area.Sure enough! "In the 1940s and 1950s, the town was known for its Ku Klux Klan activity!" But when we checked the source for that statement, the source we found was this:
Booker T. Washington National Monument, comprising the tobacco farm where the African American educator and leader was born a slave, is in the western part of the CDP.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the town was known for its Ku Klux Klan activity.
A farmers' market operates between April and October.
Natanson, Hannah (2020-07-27). "When Black Lives Matter came to white, rural America". Washington Post.Just that quickly, the Post's claim has become official fact. And who knows? It could even be an accurate claim (or not), about a much earlier day!
Was Westlake Corner known for Klan activity in the 1940s? We have no idea. The Post sources the scary claim to exactly one person—and she was born in 1951, a point we'll discuss tomorrow.
Concerning the other Klan hotbed, is it true? Is it true that black people in Franklin County still "don’t drive far into Endicott," a "mountainous region" which seems to be part of Ferrum?
It makes a very good Scary Tale, and it could always be true. But the Post seems to be sourcing that claim to Malala Penn, one of the three young women who have been staging these protests. They source it to no one else.
Did the Post ask any other black people in Franklin County if they drive into the Endicott region? There's no sign that the Post did any such thing. This is pure, unfettered Scary Story. It's a scare novel all the way down.
Tomorrow, we'll turn to Ruby Penn, age 69, who seems to the source of many parts of this scary report. We'll also dare to enter a restaurant called The Hub, and we'll hear about Ruby Penn's deeply admirable father, who was born in 1912.
For today, we'll only say this—we're reviewing the kind of journalistic clowning our own tribe now produced. This isn't Rush, and this isn't Sean. This clowning is coming from Us.
Anthropologists say it's the best we can do. We've begun to believe these top experts.
Tomorrow: Daring to enter The Hub
Swann's way with this county's kids: We suggest you read this striking profile of Franklin County's Teacher of the Year.
"[Anthony] Swann, a Danville native, said serving children is his life’s passion," the profile says. Swann "discovered his love for school while in foster care."
In our view, Swann tells a very sad, very moving story. He didn't make the Post's Scary Movie, but isn't he Franklin County too?