“No, my business and I will never be silent on racism or homophobia in our community.” Alissa Redmond

Dispatch from a Southern Bookseller: I bought South Main Book Company in Salisbury NC about three and a half years ago and I love my daily existence within the walls of this special place. Yesterday a 16-year-old girl asked me for books to boost her self-esteem; I was beyond thrilled to provide her with over 30 recommendations while we both squealed with glee at the options her life may present as it unfolds.

I love this store, even when it delivers (generally) well-intentioned customers providing me with unsolicited advice. Usually, folks want to tell me how to run my business, decorate, etc. But I’ve received a few pieces of recent counsel that I must publicly address if only to blow off excess stream.

It’s not even summer yet, but I feel we are in for a long, hot one in Salisbury.

No, my business and I will never be silent on racism or homophobia in our community. I do not believe we can ignore Confederate flags and they will disappear. History has shown that the quiet turning of a blind eye to overt displays of hatred will do nothing to stop that hate from permeating deeper into society.

And I absolutely refuse to accept blame should neo-Nazis start marching around with their racist friends in Rowan County. I am not inviting them here. Instigating some kind of violent conflict in our community is the actual last thing on earth I have interest in accomplishing with my life.

I moved back to North Carolina from overseas because I could feel in my bones that the democracy I was defending overseas was in peril from within. I am a woman who has been told to mute my opinions (and smile more) about a thousand things for which I refuse to be complicit. I know exactly the risks I undertake by using my voice, and I do so with my eyes wide open to the power white men can – and do – wield over me and my children.

But I do not believe books will indoctrinate kids in my neighborhood to hate themselves for either their sexuality or the sins of their ancestors. Books teach us how to open our minds to the possibilities of life, to different ways of thinking, to improve ourselves to be better citizens, ancestors, humans. Look elsewhere for sources of self-hatred – I’ve seen promotion of it online – but I refuse to sell anything to anyone to make them feel inferior. [Except for the book, JOKES TO OFFEND MEN (Andrew McMeel Publishing, 176 pp). I love that book. I’ll sell it to any man, woman, or child.]

Also, if you tell me I’m pushing hate on our community by featuring rainbow signs in my storefront that read “LOVE LIVES HERE,” please do come at me and explain that in simple terms like I’m a kindergartener. Go ahead. I’ve got all day to listen to that at work – and I’ll be completely silent while you do so, pinkie promise.

OR you can give Salisbury Pride $20 and pick one up from my store.

Alissa Redmond