Sunday, May 08, 2011

8 MAY 11: Why We Fight

The original plan for today's entry has changed. A couple of lengthy Saturday e-mails will do that. Besides, it probably wasn't proper to bring out Usama bin-Laden jokes on Mother's Day - even if he seemed to be the mother of all terrorists.

SUNDAY SOAPBOX: We begin with last Sunday's featured writer here, who sent a follow-up message this weekend....


Here are my thoughts in response to your May 1st comments posted on The Blog of Columbus, Georgia.

I agree that you get plenty of public announcements and agreement in Columbus, Georgia never acted upon. That is one reason why the press conference was important. I have criticized the Columbus news media a lot about not following through on controversial stories. Since we held a public press conference announcing our decision to move forward in reconciliation and unity the media should hold us to our word. If we do not keep up our efforts or keep our word the community should hold us all accountable.

If our word is not our bond and there is indeed more inaction than real action toward moving forward, the news media will bring all of this right back up as soon as the next real or exaggerated racially insensitive issue comes up. Then you will no doubt hear someone, probably you Richard, say the April 26th press conference was a dog and pony show. The media will certainly highlight our failure if we indeed appear to fail. Our efforts to unite the city will hardly get any media coverage compared to if we fail. That is simply the nature of the beast. We will not be judged by how we resolved this issue, we will be judged by the emergence of the next racially charged issue, which is something you just fight your way through.

Regarding civil rights activists not using a saying popularized by a conservative Republican president, I personally use "Trust, but verify" all the time. It is an Old Russian proverb. I even give U.S. President Ronald Reagan recognition for it when I do. He used that saying on Mikhail Gorbachev . It comes in very handy in my line of work. President Reagan also said, "All we have to do is act, and the time for action is now." I also like that one. The point is your assumption about what I would say or do is dead wrong. I even go as far as to tell fellow activists to keep an eye on me and I'll keep an eye on them so that neither of us gets caught up and strays off course. You have a right to your opinion, as ill-informed as it may be, but you do not know what you are talking about this time. I think President Reagan and the Russians were right on the money. Trust, but verify is wise advice. I have no problem bearing witness to the truth or calling it straight down the line. Your remarks seem to suggest we are naturally dishonest or hateful people. Actually, accurate facts and the truth are my stock in trade and my most effective weapons. I have to be straightforward because I challenge others to be honest and straightforward, which they usually are not. I really do not think you personally care for us or what we do very much for whatever personal reasons.

As far as me not mentioning former Mayor Jim Wetherington in my email, you are right. A lot of folks are not even mentioning Jim Wetherington's name these days. They know he got away with bloody murder as mayor. All the hard work and the tough decisions the current mayor are faced with reveals just how narrow-minded and limited in ability as mayor Jim Wetherington really was, and nobody really wants to talk about that because it makes the Wetherington critics right about him all along. However, as successful as our efforts were in dialogue leading to reconciliation, as important as all the players were in the effort, I do not think if Teresa Tomlinson were not mayor there ever would have been any agreement to move forward, which says a lot about both administrations and both people. The Tomlinson administration is more conducive to greater trust and community cohesion. Mayor Tomlinson is a straight shooter and a no-nonsense leader. Jim Wetherington was deliberately divisive and untrustworthy. His mind was closed and he maintained his power by deception, double-standards, and community division. A dark cloud hung over the Wetherington administration. The very climate of the city was all negative. Things are more positive now and looking better every day.

The people that do not understand the problems are never going to praise any efforts to resolve the issues community activists bring to the public's attention. There are those whom would have us be more of what they consider divisive than for us to come together to peacefully resolve these type issues. Division is more satisfying and more useful to them while unity is a direct threat. When activists point out racial prejudice or racism, these opponents will often use it in attempts to dupe members of the Caucasian community into believing that the only real problem that exists is us pointing to imaginary or exaggerated acts of racism. Racial bigots do not have a problem with racial discrimination; they have a problem with civil rights activists and what those activists bring to light. Racial prejudice could just as easily be the motive as anything else. It does not have to be the case, but it certainly is within the realm of possibility. You have to rely on the factual evidence and know the signs in drawing an intelligent conclusion.

We fight racial prejudice and hate, and critics are not satisfied. We work to bring about peace and understanding and show our divided community reconciliation can be accomplished, and the most they can do is criticize and try to undermine the effort. I notice you personally have had tremendous criticism over the years of outspoken community activists and civil rights activists, but now you cannot muster up a word of praise for the effort we have put forth to resolve this issue and move the city forward. All you can do is focus on what was said in an apparent effort to distract from what we are currently saying, which is unfortunate. We are used to fights over racially divisive issues in Columbus. That is hardly news. What you would think one would find very newsworthy is reconciliation and unity in the aftermath of racially insensitive conduct, which is something we never get in these situations. Now we have people coming together and you want to focus on what was said in the past. What good does that do anyone? It did not appear you were evoking the past to show how much had been accomplished. The remarks seem to be more about doubting our sincerity.

You mention to your readers the Urban League and Dr. Howell of Rainbow/Push have said anything. However, you know just as well as I do that neither one of those groups ever made any remarks throughout this issue. If you really wanted to know what they thought you would have called them and asked what they thought. You appear to be desperately trying to find some reason to believe the reconciliation is not genuine or sincere. What we have done is what some people around here did not want to ever see happen behind racially divisive issues. However, the unthinkable has happen. This model is going to be very useful in the future in bridging the divide and establishing peace.

Columbus certainly has its share of wannabe comics. You too are known to be big with the jokes. Your blog displays your special brand of humor, which is fine as this is a free country. Never the less, what is this about you telling your readers the Courier does reviews on rappers and that it has been months since you saw Edward DuBose in a purple suit? On one occasion when we held a press conference you called the African American participants chocolate milk. I do not quite get that. I have never seen Ed DuBose in a purple suit nor do I recall the Courier doing reviews on rappers. If Ed DuBose did wear a purple suit or the Courier did run reviews on rappers what of it? Is that so strange and bizarre? Just where are you trying to go with all that and just what are you trying to say? I hope one day you will get around to explaining to everyone why you think fans of your blog think those type remarks are smart or funny. I am sure your answer will be very interesting and very helpful in better understanding you and your blog. And you know as an advocate for social justice I am all for better understanding.

That is all.

Peace be with you,

C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon

Starting from the top: give the Columbus NAACP credit for holding a "moving forward" news conference with the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce a couple of weeks ago. When Rainbow/PUSH boycotted Piggly Wiggly for several years, the end of the boycott never was announced publicly. I practically had to ask William Howell if it was OK for me to use a gift certificate.

Let the record show I saw NO dogs and ponies at the Government Center a couple of weeks ago. The security team at the ground-floor entrance is downright basic, compared to major airports.

But if anything, the "burden of proof" for change now rests with the Chamber of Commerce, not civil rights groups. The Chamber's leaders have to deal with their admitted lack of African-American membership. Who knows - Rep. Sanford Bishop might be invited to speak at an "Eye-Opener Breakfast" instead of Lynn Westmoreland.

I apologize for being "ill-informed" about a quote I admittedly never have heard C.A. Hardmon say, much less write. I further apologize for not contacting him in advance to ask if he'd ever mentioned that quote, much less credit President Reagan for it. But it wouldn't have felt right to call him after midnight on a Saturday night to approve jokes.

Perhaps it's time for all of us to drop the mindset that civil rights leaders are automatically Democrats. Nate Sanderson's rise to President of the Columbus NAACP certainly breaks that mold. It's now up to Georgia Republicans to respond - perhaps by having African-American candidates other than Herman Cain.

As far as I know, the Urban League and Rainbow/PUSH made no public comments about the Mike Gaymon "tablecloth joke." But I don't have regular contact with those groups, so I may have missed something. I contacted the Columbus Minority Chamber of Commerce for a comment, since it stood to benefit [12 Jan]. You'll notice there's been no merger announcement yet....

I certainly heard much more from Columbus Urban League President Reginald Pugh when he challenged Ed Harbison for State Senate. In fact (yes, I know I'm asking for it), that's when I first heard from C.A. Hardmon [11 Aug 08]. After the Urban League's recent funding problems, Pugh may have decided silence is more golden.

Now for the "lightning round," from C.A. Hardmon's last paragraph....

+ I suggested readers "try" The Courier for rap reviews [8 Apr], then suggested the tabloid include some [11 Apr]. After all, who else in Columbus reviews big local concerts? The May issue of Playgrounds shows it missed the Waka Flocka Flame show - but its staff somehow has the gas money to attend most of the big shows in Atlanta.

+ Like it or not, Edward DuBose used to be known in Columbus for his suits as much as his causes. Even African-American journalists noted he was fond of eggplant purple. I could have gone further last Sunday, and called that color "Kansas State purple" - but you see, I showed a measure of restraint.

+ Since this is the second time Hardmon has brought up the "chocolate milk" line in comparison to the Tea Party [12 May 10] and I apologized for it before [16 May 10], I'll engage in full disclosure: I drink skim milk for breakfast and dinner. If drinking "white milk" instead of black coffee exposes me as a racist, then at least my bones are firmer for taking the blows of punishment.

(I drank chocolate milk when I was young. The last time I did that was a couple of years ago, when I added chocolate syrup to bland-tasting soy milk. I'm perfectly willing to do this on a regular basis, if it somehow will contribute to One Columbus.)

C.A. Hardmon may have overlooked the fact that I've also used items from white rights activist Michael Weaver as joke material [16 Jul 10]. I asked Weaver several weeks ago for an update on that "legal action" he was "pursuing" last year against CCG-TV and the Columbus Public Library. He hasn't responded. NAACP leaders would have the cases in court by now.

I'll stop there, fully realizing this discussion probably isn't over. Let's move on to another hot topic....

Ricahrd, saw your blog on March 11th, if you have time, ride on out Buena Vista Rd toward Schtaulga rd. This is a controlled burn/smoke?

Prescribed burns under way....

Hope you have a better weekend then we on the East side ;)

Wow, it truly must be smoky on that side of town. For one thing, our "smoky dawn" blog entry was on 22 March -- so computer screens must be hard to read.

We eventually learned the March burn was conducted on city land, under state and federal orders. But this reader's link is to an article from The Bayonet, which notes dozens of wildfires develop at Fort Benning every year. Maybe it's time to stop smoking those wild hogs people find along the edge of town....

I didn't realize Fort Benning spends about $500,000 per year on controlled burns. In fact, this raises a question - why didn't specially-trained soldiers set fire to Usama bin-Laden's compound, and smoke him out for a bullet-free arrest?

That reference leads to our last e-mail of the day....

I was in Washington,DC when bin Laden's death was announced..The college students who packed the streets around the White House were so orderly and thankful. Prince Charles was in town ,but he didn't get the crowds and news coverage that the death of bin Laden got..

I arrived back in Cols with a plane load of young people who could have been going to a Scout convention,but they were all young soldiers..When the attendent recognized them for their service right before we landed the passengers applauded their bravery. Such young kids who were about to enter a life changing chapter of their lives..

Britain's Prince Charles certainly received secondary attention in the last few days. If Prince William and his new bride had honeymooned in Washington, things might have been different. It might have made a little more sense than watching Usama bin-Laden coverage on "Entertainment Tonight."

Maybe those Fort Benning soldiers should attend next weekend's "Scout Expo" at the Trade Center. They can explain exactly how many square knots it takes to pull your buddy across a swamp.

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