Black educators Tyson and Regina Bates were eager to buy a school property in a historically Black neighborhood that is fighting gentrification in Huntersville, North Carolina. Instead, white buyers snatched up the property, getting what the Bateses claim was a more favorable deal. Now the couple is suing a North Carolina commission for racial discrimination.
The couple alleges that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission placed roadblocks in the way of their bid to obtain the Torrence-Lytle School property, according to the lawsuit.
The couple is seeking damages of at least $25,000 as well as the return of their $10,000 deposit. They are also asking for the Torrence-Lytle School to be granted to them for $1.
“Ideally, we would like to help the Bateses secure ownership of the property,” Faith Fox, the attorney representing the couple told CNN. “That’s the main goal and once they have it, to work with them to make sure that they are able to get a lot of the funding that was available years ago, and hopefully is still there, and it’s still a resource for them to be able to restore the buildings.”
The historic school opened in 1937 as the segregated Huntersville Colored School. It was later renamed Torrence-Lytle and became the only school for Black students in northern Mecklenburg County. It closed in 1966. The landmarks commission purchased the property in 2009. The school is located in the historically Black neighborhood of Pottstown, where residents have been fighting against gentrification.
The once predominantly Black town, about 14 miles away from Charlotte, is now majority white. White people comprise 80 percent of the town’s population and Black people, 12 percent.
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The Bateses, who already run an afterschool and summer program, wanted to restore the building so it could be used to serve underserved Black students.
“As Black consumers looking to purchase, we were made to meet certain contingencies that no other buyer has had to meet,” Regina Bates told CNN. “We’re convinced that they are not looking to have a Black school in a gentrified area, so they’re doing everything in their power to try to stop this particular piece of history. They want to wash it away.”
According to the Bateses, the commission provided the white buyers with more favorable terms, including a lower purchase price, and required much less paperwork. They claim white buyers were not required to provide architectural plans, make significant down payments or show extensive financial statements.
The couple also claims that the commission hasn’t returned any of their deposits totaling $10,000.
The other buyers bidding for the property are white and have no ties to the community and no interest in restoring it in a manner that would keep its historical significance and value, according to the lawsuit, obtained by Fox News affiliate WJZY.
Photo credit: iStock
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