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A fractured vision of ‘intolerable racism’

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The ‘“Declaration Against Intolerable Racism’” made by African-American elected officials, clergy and activists of Guilford County on July 4 throws down a challenge to the community at large.

The leaflet hastens to note that while the campaign was initiated by African Americans, white participation is desired, ‘“for it is in the white community that so many of the challenges to overcome racism must be undertaken.

‘“Moved by civic responsibility and Christian consciousness, coupled with a decent respect for the opinions and hopefully the participation of the broader citizenry of this county, we hereby set forth a clear declaration of the intolerable state to which racism has grown in Guilford County,’” the signers state. ‘“Now, let this Declaration serve as a beginning to unite people of good will to engage and change’… conditions.’”

The signers’ protestation that racism flourishes in Guilford County is backed by nine examples. Some deal with unequal outcomes in education and income. Others refer to symbolic matters such as the city of Greensboro’s reluctance to discuss the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Report or the city of High Point’s unwillingness to name a street after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Others grapple with bare-knuckle brawls in local government.

As a principle our publication holds to the view that people of good will can disagree ‘—’ and should sometimes. We would quibble with some of the analysis in the nine points, and would be more cautious about drawing conclusions, based on our lack of complete knowledge. But hey, we’d be the first to admit that one of the privileges of being white ‘— and make no mistake, our editorial and advertising departments are white as the driven snow ‘—’ is not having to think about race hardly ever.

A case in point (Example No. 2) about how radically different things can look through the lens of white and black experiences is the June 29 firing of Willie Best, Guilford’s first African-American county manager, which Sims described as ‘“the straw that broke the camel’s back.’”

We could say that the fact Willie Best is black doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility that he was also not up to the job of running the county. We could say we honestly don’t know whether the white members of the county commission thought Best didn’t have what it took, whether they were trying to close some unspoken political horse trade, or whether they really don’t like black people. How would we know if they’re motivated by the worst impulses unless they told us themselves?

Here’s what Sims says:

‘“I don’t think this community would have an issue if it was just about an individual being incompetent. I don’t think the county commission made that case at all. That kind of nonsense needs to stop.’”

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