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Disband The Belles

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Every April in Wilmington, North Carolina, "chosen" teenage girls are presented with the opportunity to wear huge antebellum dresses and stand in Azalea-clad gardens. To be an Azalea Belle, these young women must apply and be sponsored by a member of the Cape Fear Garden Club, a Southern, elite society of predominantly wealthy, white individuals. Oftentimes, these "belles" are standing on the very ground that enslaved Black people worked on before the Civil War (yes, the actual plantation homes still exist)

Without an explanation about the gravity of this "dress up" parade, young women are lured into praising a White Supremacist society by playing the role of high-class, big-hoop-dress-wearing slave owners. Some may argue the intention of the belles is to praise the era fashion, culture and class. If you were a white woman in the South before the war, your "culture" was participating in slavery by owning slaves. There is no way around it.

Glorifying the pre-war era is racist and fuels the harmful narrative of White Supremacy in this country. I, myself, was an "Azalea Belle" back in the day and am now sickened by the idea. When I was 16 years old, had I known the full extent of what this signified and understood the message it was sending, I would have chosen differently. Instead, I was told this is what the pretty, popular girls did. Let's stop encouraging our young women to participate in racist culture.