Thursday, April 18, 2013

Wilcox County Round 2

Creative Loafing's Gwynedd Stuart's open letter to the students of Wilcox County says all that needs to be said about the recent segregated prom controversy. But politics often does not care for resolution when there is still advantage to be gained.

Despite a poor response last week to calls for a statement on the situation, Governor Deal once again this morning attempted to clarify his position . He should have kept his mouth shut.
None of us condone things that would send the wrong message about where we are with regard to race relations.
That sounds an awful lot like the non-apologies we hear so often these days; usually in the form of "I'm sorry I made you feel that way".

Wrong message? How about just wrong? Is that so hard for the Governor to say?

My mind has not changed on Better Georgia's actions in this mess. They trolled, plain and simple, and exploited the situation for political gain. Some have called me naive for getting riled about something that is just part of politics these days. Don't care. These types of political games are repulsive no matter who pulls them.

However, it may be time to concede Better Georgia has a small point. Not by implying that Governor Deal (and Republicans by association are racists. Frankly, there's nothing worse you can do in politics than call someone racist and that was really Better Georgia's intent), but by exposing that when it comes to race, certain politicians, usually of a particular party, have a real problem facing up to racial issues with any real honesty.

I've seen it before with a former governor of another state who many on the outside believe is secretly prejudiced but those close to him, even the opposition, will tell you it's absolutely not true. But when it comes to confronting race in public, he frequently stumbles and couches. It becomes an easy caricature to target.

Given their similar positions in life, I can speculate Governor Deal suffers from a similar affliction. However, the cure is simple. 

Governor Deal is right about one thing when he says "We’ve come a long way in the state of Georgia." But we've got a ways to go and it would help if our politicians remove the mask of political equivocation and use the face of honesty to state when something is plainly wrong.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Latest Manufactured "Controversy"

A few weeks ago, Georgia and the rest of the country were shocked to learn a dirty little secret  - Wilcox County High School has segregated proms. The events are not sponsored by the school system, but none the less, it is an ugly anachronism that should not be.

As the saying goes, the children shall lead and in this case they did. A group of students took it upon themselves to organize an integrated prom.

What should have been a story of the next generation overcoming the sins of the previous generation should have ended there. But we live in the days of zero sum politics where every incident must have a choosing of sides and clear winner and a clear loser.

Despite their claim to be non-partisan and independent, Better Georgia is well known as a progressive activist group. They are very aggressive in their pursuit to get Democrats elected in Georgia. Given the wet rag resistance of Democrats in Georgia for the past ten years, a little aggression is probably needed. But there is a line and Better Georgia quickly crossed the line from aggressive politics to naked exploitation.

Peach Pundit's Charlie Harper has a good breakdown of the timeline of the "controversy" but here's the bullets:

  • Wilcox County High School's segregated prom becomes a national story
  • Students of Wilcox County determine to organize their own integrated prom
  • Wilcox County Republican Melvin Elverson assists the students by promoting private donations for the event
  • On April 5th the students announced on Facebook they had met their financial goal and the prom would be held
The story should have ended here, but last week, many of us involved in politics started seeing posts all over social media from Bryan Long and Don Weigal asking Georgia Republicans to not only "support the students" but donate money so they prom could be held. Here's what happened next

  • Better Georgia starts trolling Republicans on social media demanding they support the Wilcox County students
  • Governor Deal's spokesmen responds to Better Georgia calling their actions a silly publicity stunt
  • Governor Deal also issues a statement saying he trusts local leaders to resolve the issue to protect the equal rights of all students (see below)
  • Better Georgia begins using social media to promote the idea Governor Deal refuses to endorse an integrated prom
Anyone who has been in the business for a hot second saw this coming. Better Georgia trolled the opposition looking for an inarticulate response. Once they got one, they pounced and used confirmation bias of Democrats in this state and elsewhere to subtly promote the idea the Governor of Georgia (and Republicans in general) supports segregation.

Here's Governor Deal's full statement on the Wilcox County situation.

Gov. Deal is focused on reviewing the legislation that was passed in the legislative session and bringing jobs to Georgia. In the Wilcox County case, the governor expects and trusts that local leaders will find a long-term solution that protects the equal rights of all students, regardless of race or ethnic background.

My goodness, he's practically a modern day George Wallace.

The bottom line is this was never about the kids in Wilcox County. This was about professional political operatives scoring a "victory" for their side. With the usual political jujitsu common in these ugly cage match mud fests, they exploited kids while claiming to support them; they decried the reputation of the south as racist while exploiting national liberals own perception the south is crammed full of card carrying members of the KKK.

Their actions may be justified in the political world but it should not pass that they also belie their very name. Nothing about this episode makes Georgia better.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Is The City Of Lakeside Inevitable?

From my column in this week's Creative Loafing:
Lakeside will form if the residents wish. It should not be viewed with anger or resentment. Given the state of DeKalb County, enough may be enough and cityhood might be the only solution.
Since initially putting paper to pen, the Lakeside Alliance has made several missteps, pissing off a large portion of Tucker not being the least, but I still believe it will happen. If for no other reason than people I speak to who still live in Dekalb County are angry beyond reason. And can we really blame them?