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It's got the nation riled up, said Post owner and publisher Gerald Johnson. I'm sort of shocked.

Over the past month, the paper has been bombarded with letters, emails and phone calls from African-Americans, Hispanics and whites from mixed communities across the country.

The paper's coverage included two articles, one called When Worlds Collide, in which African-Americans candidly stated their views on Hispanics, and a follow-up article in which Hispanics did the same. Post reporter Tia Burch took to the street to find out what members of both communities thought about recent census numbers that indicate that there are now estimated to be 35.3 million Hispanics in the US, just shy of the 36.4 million African-American population.

Burch found that mutual fear and resentment ran deep among members of both groups interviewed by the paper. One black male interviewed for the first article said Hispanics were people to fear and that they play stupid by acting as if they don't understand English when they actually do.

They are taking over, he told The Post. They are taking all of our jobs. I just don't care to be around them. They make my skin crawl. . .They are the new niggers. When it comes to ghetto, they are ghetto with a capital G.

Hispanics interviewed for the second article through the aid of an interpreter expressed similar sentiments.

I know that whites and Latinos are dangerous too, but blacks are the most dangerous, said one Hispanic cab driver. When I see black people, I don't want to pick them up.

Johnson said that most local African-American leaders the paper interviewed denied that there is tension between blacks and Hispanics in Charlotte.

But none of them live in the communities where we interviewed people, said Johnson. They were just out of touch with people. It's easy to say the problem doesn't exist if you live in Southeast Charlotte. I think it's naive to say it doesn't exist because you don't see it.

Johnson said he was surprised at the reactions of members of both minority groups when they were randomly interviewed on the street.

What we got back were personal statements, said Johnson. We weren't expecting that. We published what people had to say, which is our job.

Johnson said he isn't surprised that most of the local media, including the local FOX affiliate news station, shied away from the story. In some ways, said Johnson, it was a story only a black-owned and black-run paper could completely capture.

We thought about that and what we agreed on is it would be more difficult for someone else to do because I am not sure you would get the honesty of people responding to a black (reporter) or to another publication that wasn't predominantly African-American, said Johnson. I'm not sure Creative Loafing or The Charlotte Observer would have published it even if they had heard it.

Using a translator helped Hispanics open up too, said Johnson.

Once she started speaking Spanish to them, they talked to us, said Johnson.

Johnson said he believes that the only way to begin to solve the problem and remove the resentment is to use community building initiatives to bring the two groups together. But political leaders need to stay out of it for it to work, said Johnson

The Black Political Caucus I love dearly, but their agenda is political and this has to go beyond the political arena, said Johnson. We need to bring people together for non-political reasons. Once political groups get together, the motive for getting together is not clear.

Both conservative Republican county commissioner Bill James and Democrat Eric Douglas, president of the black caucus, are often at odds with each other -- but both would like to lure Hispanics into their respective parties, something Johnson thinks could do more damage than good to race relations.

Both gentlemen think if they can get ahold of this group (Hispanics) they can turn the community into a Democrat or Republican stronghold, said Johnson.

The whole thing has been a learning experience for Johnson, whose family has owned The Post since 1974.

It showed us how we spend so much time as a country being politically correct in how we say things, that things aren't being expressed because people fear the repercussions, said Johnson. In this case when someone had the guts to say it, it started a firestorm.

Park Helms' Greatest Hits VideoWill Bill James be next commissioner with TV star power?By Tara Servatius

Over the years, conservative Republican County Commissioner Bill James has spoken out against abortion, the homosexual content in plays and homosexuality itself -- stands that have made him a pariah in many quarters. So if the county were to produce, at taxpayer expense, a campaign-style biography of his life, and run it for a month on public television, it's likely that the county would be bombarded with angry phone calls.

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