A White Supremacist In My Hometown Was Trending On Twitter
A jarring reminder that white supremacists live, work, and play all around us, all of the time.
Today’s installment of embarrassingly bad national news coverage features a racist woman, homegrown right here in my own hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. This latest episode of glaring white supremacy was captured — like many these days — on cell phone video, and subsequently went viral. And it happened at a restaurant just a few blocks from my house.
I originally missed the “Nancy Goodman” story when it happened Tuesday night, and the next day I was consumed with the Mueller hearings and some writing projects. I didn’t learn of the incident until later, refreshing my Twitter feed, when I saw “Raleigh, NC” trending, along with this tweet from a PBS News Hour commentator I follow, Yamiche Alcindor:
“A white woman in Raleigh, NC called a black woman the n-word & said she would do it again because she felt “forced” into using the racial slur bc she thought the black woman was being too loud at a restaurant. Good night, y’all.”
Not surprised; just saddened. And angered. And I’m not even black.
I immediately looked up the story and whatever I could find on this #NancyGoodman woman apparently of Raleigh before her social media accounts were scrubbed. I didn’t know her personally, and I desperately wanted to believe she had since apologized, or somehow, attempted to remedy this situation.
Spoiler: she didn’t. At that’s not even the end of this shameful story.
For those not familiar, the #NancyGoodman story basically goes like this: a small group of black women were dining at Bonefish Grill in North Raleigh. So was Nancy Goodman. At some point, Ms. Goodman decided the three black women were simply too loud and obnoxious, and saw fit to approach their table and insult them.
Mind you, Goodman didn’t bother speaking with her server, restaurant management, or even approaching the women politely, if they were being so loud that she couldn’t enjoy her meal. She just took matters into her own hands, approached the women, condemned them (one in particular, Lekesha Shaw), for being “the rudest people she’d ever met,” and for being “too loud.”
Now, I’m just going to interject right here, as a lifelong North Carolinian, to say that I’ve been around long enough to know that calling people of color “too loud” (or “too obnoxious,” or “too angry”) is a racist dog whistle. I don’t know about elsewhere, but that’s what it means here, and all “woke” white people (loosely meaning, those who aren’t in denial about the existence of systemic racism and white privilege) understand that.
Do we ever accuse white people of being “too loud?” Yes, of course. But generally, when it’s used by white folks against black folks, there’s an implicit, often subconscious power dynamic at play, which transforms a phrase like “too loud” or “too” whatever, into code that really means: the mere presence of POC is already intolerable, but it’s made unbearable if one perceives POC as being “too” — (whatever’s in alignment with one’s internal bias against that race). And that’s dangereous territory, because that’s when it quickly escalates to overt racism.
Don’t believe me? Watch how the Nancy Goodman incident proceeds and proves this theory correct.
Alternatively, you can just go to the comments sections of any of the pieces I’ve written on systemic racism — or hell, probably comments on this very piece, when they come — which prove my point. (My husband thinks I’m too pessimistic, but I tend to consider myself more realistic. Lol.)
But if accusations of racism weren’t the least bit true, then guess what? White people wouldn’t get so stark raving mad about it.
And the thing is, for every one of these awful racist stories unearthed online, there’s an even larger number of them happening behind closed doors; believe me, I’ve heard plenty of ’em, and you likely have, too:
“Did you hear those obnoxious black ladies at dinner? OMG, so rude! No regard for anyone but themselves! Why do black people have to be so loud? If they wouldn’t act like fools drawing attention to themselves all the time, they wouldn’t be getting into trouble all the time!”
(or, something to that effect.)
If you watched the video, you saw Ms. Goodman walk away next, appearing to speak to a manager, and one of the women at the table, Chanda Stewart, who took out her phone and started recording, speaking in disbelief at the audacity of Goodman — a complete stranger — insulting them.
Narrating the video, Stewart describes what just happened while we see Goodman then looking back at the ladies. When she notices she’s being recorded, that’s when she really brings on the “charm,” calmly smiling and waving sarcastically to the seated women. (I must admit, Goodman doesn’t at all appear to be the face of someone in the midst of a severe anxiety attack.)
Goodman openly mocks them by retreiving her own phone to record the black women still seated at their table. She then walks over to the women for a second time, recording (or pretending to record) them, and knowing full-well that she’s also being recorded.
She says, “I have some really good friends who are black and I love them,” at which point, one of the ladies at the table responds, “We never said anything about color.”
D’oh — busted!
Ok, so this time, I must interject to say that, if at any time you find yourself saying, “I have some really good friends who are black and I love them,” then most of us know that what you’re about to do next is to spew some racist BS.
In true racist fashion, Goodman sternly asserts that her black friends “would never act like that… you’re too loud.”
Stewart clarifies, “In your opinion,” and continues, “Let me show you my money. It’s just as green as yours,” as she holds her money to show Goodman and make a point.
The fact that Stewart’s speaking the truth so reasonably here angers Goodman beyong the point of no return. Without pause, Goodman inches closer as if preparing to pounce, and says the final blow, “Why are you so stupid, ‘n******?”
We hear the table of ladies gasp in shock, before asking Goodman, “You call your black friends n****r?” Goodman shakes her head and walks away, carefree, muttering, “They’re not like you.”
Later, an obviously shaken Chanda Stewart publicly posted the story and confrontation on Facebook, along with thoughts expressing her sadness, including:
As we witnessed in the local news interview above, Goodman introduces herself as a woman who “suffers from tremendous anxiety.”
Finally, I have to interject again, because in addition to being white like Goodman, I also have suffered the debilitating effects of anxiety and panic disorder for a couple of decades, and I can unequivocally state that my anxiety has never once forced me (or even urged me) to blurt out a racist slur during even my worst panic attack.
Goodman comes off like an audacious shrew as she continues on about how she’s “not gonna say I’m sorry to them, because they kept pushing at it, so… And that’s all I’d really like to say.” But the sarcastic smile on her face and her unmoving, statue-like posture indicate there’s far more she’d be willing to say.
The reporter asks, “What about your use of the n-word?” Goodman answers, with a wry, execrable smile, “I used that word because they forced me into it.”
An awkward pause ensues — maybe because the reporter’s in a bit of shock? Goodman cranes her neck around at the reporter in a derisive way, as if to say with dripping contempt, “So… any more questions? How else can I help you today, M’am?”
The reporter breaks the silence with, “Do… you… see how that’s incredibly offensive?”
“Yes I do,” Goodman quickly answers, “and that’s why I said it,” (as if only idiots and imbeciles would not understand her very reasonable justification of this epic racist tantrum).
The reporter responds with more silence. And just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, Goodman willingly offers, “I would say it again to them.”
The poor reporter clarifies, giving her one last chance to redeem herself, “So you’re not sorry about saying the n-word?”
And Goodman responds confidently, shaking her head and walking away, almost laughing as if this whole debacle is nothing but silly nonsense, “No… No.”
No. She’s not sorry about saying the n-word. She’d say it again.
She admitted this in a TV interview, having to understand, on some level, that this whole thing could go viral and cast her in the worst kind of light. She didn’t seem to care.
Though it appeared she’d apologized to her family on Facebook in advance of that news story airing, there was — still to this day — to be no apology offered to the ladies who were the target of Nancy Goodman’s confrontation and racist remarks. Instead, as we saw, there was only a doubling-down, a stubborn tenacity that seems to be a calling card of the toxic trumpism we so often see playing out on the news.
Now, I gotta say, Raleigh is a city I love; I’m gonna defend it, because on the whole, we are better than this.
But our reputation is already tarnished, dangling by a thread. In case anyone’s unaware, N.C. has a notoriously corrupt GOP who are fascinated with writing transphobic bathroom bills, and drawing congressional maps with hyperpartisan racial gerrymandering.
It’s not as if we needed yet another openly racist, trump-enabling, white supremacist to claim as our own — especially on the heels of last week’s cult-like rally in Greenville for the 45th POTUS, which basically sealed our place in history as the shamefully racist “send her back” state.
We are so much better than this.
Raleigh is where I grew up from 1974–’92. I spent most of my youth treading the boards of Raleigh’s vast and flourishing theatre scene — from the historic landmark Raleigh Little Theatre, to professional “Broadway” companies like North Carolina Theatre, to the pop-up, emerging collectives like Star Pocket Theatre — there has never been a shortage of places to satisfy my hunger for performing on stage.
Raleigh boasts top universities like NCSU, Shaw University, and Meredith College (my alma mater). Raleigh (and its perimeters) houses some of the nation’s leading employers, like RTP, SAS Institute, and the Duke University Health System.
In Raleigh, there’s something for everyone: Sports. Dining. Entertainment. History. Culture. Leisure.
Umstead State Park is among my son’s favorite spots for hiking and camping. My daughter — equal parts homebody and adventurer — loves browsing our city’s many antique shops with her boyfriend, or racing go carts at Frankie’s Fun Park. My thirteen year old transgender child always has a safe space to hang out, with Raleigh’s LGBT Center being one of the largest in the southeast, hosting over 25 programs, 7 of which are specifically for youth.
Raleigh is also proud of our eclectic culinary scene, and especially, chef Ashley Christensen — who’s not only the 2018 recipient of the James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast,” but she’s also prominent in Raleigh for her progressive community involvement, philanthropy, and political pushback against our discriminatory GOP.
Personally, as the mother of a trans child, I’m happy to say that with the help of countless other liberal progressives in Raleigh, and especially, the folks on the forefront who blazed the way — like Hunter Schafer, Candis Cox, Ames Simmons, and Equality NC — we were able to vote out former Republican Governor, Pat McCrory, who praised and passed the discriminatory “bathroom bill,” HB2.
Despite the racial gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics in 2016, we voted Democrat Roy Cooper into office, thus, making McCrory the first Governor in N.C. to not be re-elected for a 2nd term since the dissolution of the Whig party in the 1800’s.
Our state is also bursting at the seams with all kinds of diversity and talent. From journalists to filmmakers to actors to sports figures, we’ve born or been home to some of the entertainment greats, including Cecil B. DeMille, John Coltrane, Ava Garnder, Maya Angelou, Nina Simone, Ben E. King, Sugar Ray Leonard, David Sedaris, Michael Jordan, Tori Amos, Frankie Muniz, Evan Rachel Wood, and Jacob Tobia (to name just a few.)
I’ll give a shameless plug here for my Dad’s cousin, who sadly passed away in 2015: NC’s own Gregory Walcott (born Bernard Mattox). Cousin Greg was a Hollywood character actor, appearing in hundreds of films and TV series from 1952–1994, but — much to his dismay — perhaps remembered the most for starring in the (now cult classic) film, Plan Nine From Outer Space.
But, with no regrets and a great sense of humor, Greg always managed to laugh over that film. He captured the real North Carolinian spirit — he had no airs about him, and somehow always managed to make you feel like you were the most important, most interesting person he’d ever talked to, but in a genuine, comfortable way — not pretentious or phony at all.
Like cousin Greg, N.C. (and Raleigh in particular) has always been — at least for me — a growing, thriving, culturally rich city, with a small-town, welcoming, “y’all means all” vibe, and chock full of fun-loving, friendly, down-to-earth, non-judgmental folks. It’s a place I’ve always been proud to call home.
This nasty, egregious, racism-on-parade which brought my beloved hometown into the national spotlight again was a jarring reminder that white supremacists live, work, and play all around us, all of the time. This story was literally a little too close to home. And yet, not at all surprising in the least.
Now, I’m not so thick-headed as to think just because Raleigh has all these nice, friendly, beautiful, diverse places, that racism doesn’t exist here; I know much better than that.
Still, before the 2016 election, it seemed most of these racist, white supremacists (who always seem to deny being either) kept this albatross of theirs hanging in the closet rather than around their necks. But with the political ascension of trump, and by association, the cult-like, misguided religious-patriotism that ostensibly comprises trumpism, these people seem to have found a revival of sorts.
Despite the trump effect emboldening former closet racists to crawl our from under their rocks, I knew the death threats were probably already taking over Nancy Goodman’s world (something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy), as soon as the media crews showed up at her house.
I knew because I once had a story go viral, though thankfully, mine was a positive story that somehow ended up benefitting us — myself, my husband and our three children — in unexpected ways.
Still, I know what that unforeseen, unprepared-for, vicious media whirlwind feels like. And, because there is no shortage of awful people in this world, I also know what it feels like to receive the onslaught of hate mail, and the wild, bogus accusations from strangers who know nothing about you.
But with the Nancy Goodman story, with such brazenly overt racism out front, I find it hard to condemn anyone for calling her on the carpet.
To the rest of the country, please accept sincere apologies from the majority of North Carolinians who are in agreement that Nancy Goodman is not us.
As for the three ladies who had to endure this disgusting racist bigotry, I’m happy to say that they’ll be having a proper “redo” of their botched dinner. A wonderful Facebook group I’m a member of — Raleigh Liberal Moms — with nearly 5,000 members has offered this (and the 3 women have graciously accepted), from one of our lovely group members. (I’ll provide a partial screenshot):
One of the three ladies shared this publicly on her Facbook page, in genuine appreciation, and most importantly, several women, who most likely wouldn’t have been connected otherwise, now share an experience and a friendship. ’Cause this is just how we handle racism in NC.
Martie sir-ROY (she/her) is a top writer in Culture, Politics, and LGBTQ for Medium, editor of Gender From the Trenches, and has been a featured contributor for HuffPost, Scary Mommy, NPR affiliates, and SiriusXM Insight, among others. Martie is the founder of S.E.A.R.CH., a program of her local LGBT Center, for trans youth and their parents. Connect with Martie on Twitter, Facebook, or follow her website & blog.