Class Warfare and Racial Prejudice Reared Their Ugly Heads in New Bern
Report on 5-12-15 Board of Aldermen Meeting
by Raynor James
Two of the illnesses affecting our country reared their ugly heads at the New Bern Board of Aldermen’s meeting on the evening of Tuesday, May 12. I was first shocked, then annoyed, and now I feel the remnants of those feelings plus sadness. Let me tell you what happened.
About 10 or 12 of our Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association (CCTA) members attended the meeting because we have requested that the city allow us to organize an Independence Day Celebration Parade in downtown New Bern on the 4th of July. Our plan is to make this an annual event to help celebrate the founding of our country and the principals upon which it was founded. We want to seek broad participation by all sorts of civic, military, religious, commercial, preservation, and other groups and individuals who care to join in this celebration. Anyone who is like minded on the topic is welcome. Our country isn’t perfect, but our founders did an amazing job of pointing us in a good direction. Now it’s our turn to carry the ball, and we believe that part of that job is to draw attention to and celebrate our good origin.
With that as background, when our parade application came up for consideration (number 15 on the agenda), it was clear the aldermen had questions, so Iggi Hussar, CCTA’s Parade Chairman, went to the audience podium to answer them. A woman with red hair jumped up from her seat in the audience and began asking the aldermen questions with a rather hostile attitude regarding the cost of the parade to the city. The mayor explained that this was not a city sponsored event and that CCTA would pay for traffic control, police protection, and the like; the parade would not cost the city anything. She also wanted to know who the participants were to be. Iggi told her it’ll be open to a broad range of veterans groups, civic groups, and the like. She seemed to still have a chip on her shoulder, but subsided.
Next, the aldermen began asking their own questions. At first, they seemed to be innocuous questions for clarification. Then, one of the two black aldermen began asking a string of questions about the parade route. He mentioned that people needed to be able to view the parade without the cost and inconvenience of driving to the event. He talked about parades that begin near Fort Totten. The other black alderman added a remark or two. It was never said, but it finally dawned on me that what they wanted was for the parade to go through black neighborhoods. Gracious. Why didn’t they just say so?
Iggi had indicated that we were flexible about both the timing and route of the parade. As a matter of fact, our original proposal had included a route that took it around Tryon Palace and did include a predominantly black neighborhood. Someone with the city had said that might interfere with another event that day and he came up with the proposed route that was on the table.
The mayor suggested that the two aldermen with problems with the route, some members of city staff, and some folks from CCTA sit down and work out a better route. At which point, I was thinking, “Oh my gosh! They’ll dilly-dally until we don’t have time to get parade participants and put together a decent parade, and then they’ll wonder why it didn’t work out!” (I expect the mayor meant well, but time is getting tight for an undertaking of this magnitude.)
Finally, to my relief, the white female alderman expressed concern about the amount of time available to put together a parade, and moved that the parade application be approved with the understanding that the route might be revised. The motion passed along strictly racial lines with the two black aldermen voting “no” and the three white aldermen and the white mayor voting “yes.”
All this was done with great politeness and civility, but the 800 pound gorilla in the room was racial prejudice, and I believe it emanated from the two black aldermen. What a shame. I believe they saw racial bias where none existed.
CCTA has had black speakers and regularly invites blacks to come to our meetings and to join our organization. Jae Logan, a conservative black pastor from Havelock, has been one of our speakers. The late Tim Johnson, PhD, Founder of The Frederick Douglass Foundation, has been one of our speakers. E.W. Jackson has been one of our speakers. The latter two were house guests of two of our members during their stays in New Bern. All three of them are charming, intelligent, conservative, thoughtful people who fit in beautifully with our group.
WHY would the two black New Bern aldermen assume we are racially prejudiced??? It absolutely blows my mind. There is something going on here that is ugly. It is underground. And it needs to see the light of day. May we talk about this, please? What has happened to cause such ugly assumptions to be made? How do we fix it?
Our CCTA group left shortly after our request had been dealt with. (Several members had been to Raleigh to meet with legislators earlier that day and had been up since “oh-dark-hundred.”) We were quickly joined by the red haired woman who had spoken up earlier, another white woman who was highly nervous, and a calm, slender, young black woman.
In this case, I don’t think it had anything to do with race. The two white women were in an “attack” mode. They talked loudly and fast. They seemed convinced that none of our members could possibly live in New Bern, but they didn’t pause to allow answers to their rhetorical questions; they kept up a steady barrage. It included cracks about “living in rich neighborhoods.”
Finally, a few of us were able to have actual conversations with them separately. In exasperation, I inquired of the nervous one, “Why are you being so hateful? Why are you so sure none of us lives in New Bern? The truth is some of us do, and some of us don’t, but why does it matter???”
Oddly enough, she calmed down at that point, and began talking about the cost of the parade, and how all parades in her original home town had been paid for with taxpayers’ money. Our Chairman, Rick Hopkins, had been listening and when she paused, he told her that he’d been born in New Bern and had lived here for 63 years. The combination of our paying for the parade, having a “natural born” member, and talking quietly seemed to take the venom and pent up anger away, but I can’t help but wonder where it came from in the first place. Was it class warfare? Do they hate “the rich?” If so, WHY?
If that’s what it was, they were off target again. I’ve been a member of CCTA since 2009 (when Michael Speciale was Chairman and Norm Sanderson was Vice Chairman), and I know our members pretty well. Some of our members are prosperous (and they tend to be very generous), but none of them seem to be what I’d call “rich,” except rich in experience, love and friendship.
By the way, what I’d call “rich” is when one can live on a rather grand scale and be able to dine out in upscale restaurants and travel in comfort at will on the earnings produced by one’s investments. What’s your definition? If someone earns riches, does it take anything away from you? Or does it just show you that such things are possible? Where on earth does this class envy, hate-the-rich stuff come from??? Unless it’s from ill-gotten gains, it’s what creates opportunities for the rest of us. What’s wrong with being rich? Can’t we just let the venom go and get on with living our own lives and pursuing happiness in our own ways? This stuff really perplexes me. What about you?
If you’d like to share your thoughts on these topics, I’d be pleased to hear from you.