Local Vocal: Mayor Holliday needs to concentrate on reality

by Matthew Shelton

Two articles in the September 28th issue of YES! Weekly contain comments by Mayor Keith Holliday that speak volumes about his perceptions of his role as mayor and the state of our city. In ‘“Mayor Keith Holliday’s power of positive thinking’” the mayor is preoccupied with two PGA’s. The first is the ‘“Positive Greensboro Attitude,’” and the other is the Professional Golf Association. He’s convinced that Greensboro citizenry bringing the first PGA to be caught on tape at the second PGA’s local tournament will show the nation how great it is to be in Greensboro.

Mayor Holliday comments that ‘“our opportunity to accentuate the positives and downplay the negatives is, in my opinion, just plain common sense.’” I find myself wondering what Mayor Holliday considers to be the ‘“positives’” and ‘“negatives’” of our city. While we both probably consider the existence of institutional racism, homelessness, and lack of access to proper education, healthcare, etc., to be undesirable, I find our similarities do not extend to our philosophies on how to deal with such problems.

Holliday acknowledges with this statement that he is chiefly concerned with portraying a pleasant demeanor regarding the state of our community. Moreover, it is disconcerting that he sees the city’s desirability and ability to confront problems to be in conflict: it does not make ‘“common’” sense to me that a city is made more attractive when it deliberately ‘“downplays’” serious issues that directly affect the lives of its citizens. To my fellow Christians, for whom it is an article of faith, and to my fellow citizens of other belief systems or moral standards, for whom it might be a bit of wisdom: Jesus Christ said, ‘“Seek and ye shall find.’” He specifically did not say, ‘“Don’t seek, because that makes you look like you don’t already have all the answers, and then people won’t want to bring their money here.’” Now, I know Mayor Holliday isn’t the embodiment of the second coming, but I do think we deserve a leader who isn’t afraid to really grapple with some of the pressing issues of our time.

Holliday’s logic epitomizes, to an earthbreaking degree, the ‘“see no evil’” mindset of our Mayor and many other city leaders, including the other five white city council members who voted not only to not support, but to oppose the truth and reconciliation process. This was also evidenced by the failure of every white city council member, including Mayor Holliday, to attend even one day (there were six, total) of public hearings of the Greensboro Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Later in the paper, when asked about his favorite song as part of YES!’s survey of where City Council candidates stand on ‘“the issues,’” Mayor Holliday cites the song ‘“One,’” by U2, which contains the following lyric: ‘“One life/ With each other/ Sisters/ Brothers/ One life/ But we’re not the same/ We get to carry each other/ Carry each other/ One.’” He specifically cites the ‘“carry each other’” line as being particularly meaningful.

Greensboro’s image suffers more from a willful ignorance regarding painful memories than from the actual existence of the history such memories document. Every city suffers from racism; we all are made poor by poverty and a societal system that consistently offers a contingent of its citizenry unequal opportunity and insufficient support structures. The existence of these problems is not what will make Greensboro visible on an international scale. Rather, it will be our ability to look at each other, acknowledge our shortcomings together, and our subsequent process of collectively solving these problems that will get the attention of all who aren’t here. When we carry each other, we show the world not only how Greensboro is a special place, but also how, as human beings, we can unite in recognition of our differences and celebration of our hopes in order to move forward.