February 29, 2012 8:08:00 PM
Tuesday afternoon in a conversation about Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Monday board meeting, an observer jokingly referred to a term on the board as a prison sentence. For some on that board, it must feel like it.
Of late, every meeting of the CVB involves at least an explosion or two. Some days there is even name calling. At least twice black board members have called white board members racist or accused them of being such.
It is an insidious charge and one we naively hoped had vanished from public life.
To which we say, just because a white board member thinks a certain white attorney would best represent the board does not constitute racism.
CVB board member Bernard Buckhalter, who is black, invoked the R-word when the CVB board Monday selected Chris Latimer as its attorney on an as-needed basis. The board, faced with three good choices, chose Latimer, who is white.
Buckhalter said he felt the hiring of Latimer was "racist." Buckhalter didn't provide any evidence. He just didn't like the outcome so he just picked up the nearest stone he could find and threw it.
What a fine day it will be when competence and not race is the overriding concern in our decision making. And what a fine day it will be when we have officials and board members who don't resort to name calling when they don't get their way.
Diversity on boards and in government is essential. We have argued that point in this space many times. But, charging racism when you don't get your way is irresponsible, insulting and polarizing. That sort of name calling not only destroys a spirit of cooperation a board needs in order to be effective, it is destructive to the image of the community, one, incidentally, the CVB board is charged with promoting.
While great strides have been made in racial reconciliation in our part of the world in recent decades, we still have a long way to go. Screaming "racism" when things don't go your way is not helping us get there.