Originally created 12/16/05

Don't buy racial division

Most people in Augusta are desperate for racial unity.

But some people hate the thought of giving up a good fight. They're the ones who make a living out of keeping the races at odds.

So, now that the city has elected a white mayor, the race hustlers have taken their irrational rhetoric through the stratosphere.

Commissioner Marion Williams, who isn't happy if there isn't strife, said of his opponents, "They're dogs. No better than dogs."

Morning show hosts on gospel station WAAW-FM (94.7) Thursday said white Commissioner Andy Cheek is "No. 2 to the Ku Klux Klan" - and that the "vast majority" of white people are "the devil." They also said Mayor Deke Copenhaver is the devil.

This, after WAAW general manager Larry Adamson said at the mayor's prayer breakfast that he was working for racial reconciliation. That's reconciliation?

Hysterical rhetoric had been bubbling up in recent weeks, but went sky-high this week after it was learned that Augusta commissioners may vote next week on whether to give the mayor a veto; to eliminate the six-vote requirement in favor of a simple majority; to give the city administrator hiring and firing authority; to hire a permanent fire chief; and to deal with a city engineering department that appears to be effectively warding off economic development.

Williams and other race hustlers won't acknowledge the need for any of these reforms - and want to paint each one of them as a racial issue.

In truth, the current structure of the Augusta Commission is a monument to racial mistrust. It presupposes that if either race gets an edge, the other is doomed. Dismantling that monument to mistrust is a step toward unity and trust.

Marion Williams and his supporters are essentially saying that white people can't be trusted not to do things harmful to black Augusta if given the slightest edge. How racist is that?

Williams and his ilk also assume the commission will always vote along racial lines. Perhaps some in his generation of leaders believe that, but the new young lions taking power in Augusta - Deke Copenhaver in the public sector and open-hearted private-sector leaders Steven Kendrick and Helen Blocker-Adams and more - are tired of the same-old racial divisions Williams is peddling.

There's a growing movement in the private sector for racial unity and mutual progress. And there are a ton of positive things happening in the private sector, including recent job growth, housing starts and a pervasive cultural vitality. People have less patience than ever with the negativity they're hearing.

Those who make a living, or an avocation, out of racial divisiveness feel their power slipping away. Good. But they won't go quietly.

Still, we hold out hope that the race hustlers will either tone down their rhetoric or, more helpful yet, join the rest of us in seeking racial unity, togetherness and teamwork.

In the alternative, if we can't ignore the peddlers of racial strife and division, let's drown them out and outvote them.

Let's hope the Community Trust Initiative - started by the Chamber of Commerce in 2003 to work on racial unity - will come out of its slumber and denounce the racist rhetoric polluting Augusta. If that isn't what the trust initiative is for, then what else?

Augusta, don't buy the racial divisiveness a few malcontents are selling.

We're better than that.


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