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CoastLine: Racist Letter To Local Church Sparks Community Conversation On Racial Divide

Pastor Dierdre Parker leads the congregation of Speaks Temple AME Zion Church in Wilmington, NC.

A letter full of racist invectives addressed to the Minister / Head Pastor arrived at Speaks Temple AME Zion Church late last month.  Postmarked February 14th from Charlotte, North Carolina, the same day as the Parkland, Florida school shooting and Valentine’s Day, no one seems to know who wrote the letter or why they sent it to a small church in Wilmington. 

What is worth noting about the letter is not necessarily the fact of the letter itself.  One could argue the sender is mentally ill, an outlier, a misguided attention-seeker or all of the above.  In fact, we were dubious about even making this a focus of a CoastLine edition to avoid giving such speech a platform.  For that reason, we give no air time to the language in the letter. 

But when Pastor Dierdre Parker, posted a photograph of it on her Facebook page, the difference in the way people of color and white people responded is noteworthy.  Predictably,  many white people who weighed in expressed shock, outrage and offered support: 

"So very sorry this is a part of our world today."

"I am so sorry.  Praying for you."

"We are with you.  So sad there are people like this."

Here are some responses from people of color: 

"It is so rampant in Wilmington, you face it every day."  

"Wilmington NC--the Capital City of White Supremacy since 1898."

"These are dark days we're living in.  Be careful, be vigilant, and know that no matter what happens, you are loved."

And of course, this sampling in no way characterizes all of the people who posted – regardless of ethnicity.   But it does point to stark differences in daily experience and the resulting perception of the depth of the racial division in the Cape Fear region. 


Dierdre Parker, Pastor of Speaks Temple AME Zion Church, Wilmington

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.