May 15, 2002 News & Features » Cover Story


Small Minds 

Richmond must embrace outsiders.

It shouldn't surprise me that these disparaging words, which have their roots in the Civil War, persist to this day in a place that celebrates "Lee-Jackson Day." But I am surprised that there still exist some Richmonders with such provincial notions about outsiders.

These "Old Virginians" of the Old Dominion possess a peculiar sort of pride that blinds them to the promise and possibility of real progress. It may be true that the ancestors of these Richmonders built the foundation on which our city rests, but it's equally true that for the city to prosper, Richmond must embrace outsiders who want to make this city their home.

It is often said that Richmond is a tradition-bound city, but I think there's more to it than that. There's an arrogance I've encountered among some Richmond natives who project a certain kind of Southern hospitality that comes off as Southern superiority. These are people who were born here, reared here and schooled here, people, who, for all intents and purposes, have never experienced life outside Richmond, who sincerely believe this is as good as it gets.

In fact, they believe it was even better before all the carpetbaggers and Yankees came rolling into town. I like Richmond just fine, but compared to a lot of cities I've seen, there's a lot of room for improvement. Until the natives throw open the city gates to outsiders, and welcome them sincerely, I'm afraid Richmond will fail to achieve greatness, because those who help can get us there won't want to stay. S


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