July 9, 2020 11:07:31 AM
A recent letter from the Columbus-Lowndes NAACP to some 400 Lowndes County businesses has become a subject of debate.
The letter, sent last week to the entire membership of the Columbus-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce, asks business owners to reply and state whether they either stand with the NAACP in calling for Harry Sanders' resignation or whether they support Sanders. The letter threatens to publish a list of businesses who support Sanders.
The Dispatch has publicly stated multiple times that Sanders should resign, but we chose not to respond to the letter.
We agree with much of what the local NAACP has stated publicly since Harry Sanders' incendiary racists remarks after a June 15 meeting of the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors, where Sanders labeled our black citizens as "dependent."
While we understand the NAACP's motivation and intent -- build more public demand for Sanders' resignation -- in distributing the letter, we believe it represents a serious misstep in what otherwise has been a positive, inclusive campaign.
The letter was viewed as a strong-arm tactic by many business owners who received it, even among some who support the NAACP's position. The heading of the letter suggested those businesses which decline to respond to the NAACP in support of its position might be the subject of a boycott.
While boycotts have long been an effective tool used by movements to hold people accountable, we believe in this case there is a far better strategy, one that builds support rather than making potential enemies.
Rather than call out non-responsive or non-supportive businesses, it's far better to acquire their support, publish their names and encourage people to patronize those businesses. Looking for a pie? Shop at the pie shop on the NAACP's list.
Throw bouquets, not bricks. That's proven to be an effective tactic, too.
It would also be consistent with what we have seen during the past three weeks, where the efforts to compel Sanders' resignation have largely been peaceful, positive and unifying.
Until now, the focus has been entirely on Sanders, as it should be. Strategically, the more isolated Sanders is, the weaker his position. He can find his own allies. Don't unintentionally drive anyone into his camp.
The NAACP's position is just, its intentions honorable.
But in the case of this letter, its tactics are regrettable and, we fear, counter-productive.