RALEIGH, N.C. — In big cities, the majority of residents are African-Americans while whites live in the suburbs. However, a new report found the opposite in small North Carolina towns. Whites live in the city and black neighborhoods just outside town limits are left without crucial services.
The UNC Center for Civil Rights held a conference Friday to discuss the phenomenon known as "invisible fences." Some residents in Holly Springs know about the issue firsthand. Residents who live on Lassiter Road have something that they wanted for years -- a town sewer connection and a fix for their contaminated water.
"Many of them were buying their own water for years because they figured there was nothing more that they could do about that," said Lynice Ramsey-Williams, of N.C. Fair Share.
Changes came through annexation, but those changes did not come easily. The annexation cost millions of dollars and residents fought for five years to raise the money themselves.
"They were able to get allocated $3.2 million for water and sewer for that community," Ramsey-Williams said.
The conference discussed the exclusion of African-American communities from the towns of which they are a part.
"These people who are excluded as residents from voting in elections and elected those office, so they have all the disadvantages of being outside, but none of those advantages," said Jack Boger, of the UNC Center for Civil Rights.
Officials said the issue is widespread in communities around the Triangle, including parts of Orange, Alamance and Moore counties. Mebane City Attorney Charles Bateman said the city cannot do anything to fix the problem without funding.
"We would like to address the problem, but what we really need is financial help, perhaps more state or federal aid," he said.
The group at the conference discussed ways to rectify the situation such as lawsuits and lobbying the General Assembly.