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Labor Day boycott does nothing for civil rights

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In December 1955 the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala. and other black leaders successfully staged a boycott of the city’s bus system in protest against segregation.

In this instance, the goal was clear: To force the city to allow African Americans full access to the public transportation system. The embargo lasted a year and when all was said and done Montgomery’s bus lines were open to all its citizens; the pastor, Martin Luther King Jr., rose to national prominence; and the boycotting technique earned a valued place in the non-violent arsenal of the struggle for civil rights and equality.

This month, according to the Carolina Peacemaker, the Guilford County Coalition Against Intolerable Racism called for a boycott in the county, urging citizens of color on Labor Day to proscribe all businesses – except those owned by blacks – and also to boycott two Greensboro newspapers, the Rhinoceros Times (later rescinded by Rep. Earl Jones who called the Rhino a “rumor mill paper” and said that it “doesn’t have a lot of credibility”) and the Greensboro News & Record, because both are “instruments of racism.”

The coalition also called for the resignation of News & Record editor John Robinson.

Chief among the accusations against Greensboro’s only daily newspaper were its “false coverage” of Project Homestead and its founder, Michael King, and also a spate of recent stories concerning one Larry Tarone Harrison Jr., a convicted sex offender who was recruited to play on NC A&T University’s football team.

And while we admit to a moment of snickering glee upon hearing that our competitors were slated for boycott, it was quickly replaced with an emotion approaching outrage.

After all, a newspaper is supposed to ask questions, especially when a non-profit spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on airline tickets and cruises as was the case with Project Homestead. And it also has the duty to inform, particularly when an entire population of students is being exposed to a convicted felon as is the situation with A&T.

Race, as we see it, has little bearing on these matters. And Robinson, rather than being asked to resign, should be commended for overseeing the Project Homestead exposé and for alerting the students on the A&T campus of the presence of Larry Tarone Harrison Jr.

As for the Labor Day boycott, we see little in common with the struggle for civil rights in Alabama and the GCCAIR’s proposed strike against the city’s business owners. In the former case there was a clear injustice and a dignified, cohesive response – Montgomery’s black taxi drivers charged their black patrons the same ten cents they would have spent on the bus and black churches nationwide collected shoes for the new class of pedestrians.

This current instance smacks of grandstanding and name-calling. And the perceived threat, a vague charge of “institutional racism,” is not something that we think can be defeated by a one-day boycott or by firing John Robinson.

In fact, we question what the GCCAIR is trying to accomplish by their actions and their words.

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