Make change where it counts: the Ballot Box

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors made a statement Monday night in voting for the Confederate monument to stay on the courthouse lawn. 

Several supervisors spoke on the issue, including Chad McLarty of District 4 and David Rikard, of District 3 and Board President Mike Roberts, of District 5. As they spoke, one thing became clear: Our votes matter just as much on a community level as they do on a state and national level.  

The Board began discussion by making it clear that there was no intention of “kicking it down the road,” a decision we should be able to appreciate as voters.  

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McLarty, who ran on the Democrat ticket in the last election and has served on the board for eight years, offered up a few interesting anecdotes. One of those was that he, as a white man, had been on the receiving end of racism and police brutality.  

Debate of “reverse racism” aside, perhaps the most poignant thing McLarty said was near the end of his address: 

“You may not agree with my opinion on this issue, and I respect that. My seat on this board is up in three and-a-half years, and you can replace me with someone who represents your views.” 

Rikard also spoke on his efforts to educate himself on the way the statue impacts his constituents. As the elected official representing the county’s majority minority district, it surely would not have been difficult to seek out feedback from a variety of individuals.  

“Until people change what’s in their heart, none of that means anything,” Rikard said, quoting someone whom he said was a Black woman in his district.  

This is also painfully true. No flag, statue or social media post can change what’s in people’s hearts. However, giving what has become a symbol of hatred – regardless of whether it was originally intended as such or not – a less prominent place in our community is a step in the right direction.  

Relocating the statue would have been a tangible symbol that members of the LOU Community have evolved beyond the ideals of their predecessors.  

Roberts rounded out the statements, saying at one point that he was “frustrated that we can’t make everybody happy.” In the moment, it’s unclear who, exactly, is made happy by the board’s decision.  

Roberts also called for everyone to “put the hatred aside.” In this, he had a valid point – the protests on both sides are temporary. The picket signs will eventually be tossed aside and the Facebook comments will cease.  

Temporary outbursts of anger rarely lead to lasting change, and obtaining justice often takes far longer than people are willing to give it. 

As McLarty so kindly pointed out, this issue has been brought before the board three times over the last eight years. Each time before now, the result has been the same: the board has laid low in the hope that people will move on to the next hot-button issue. 

This time was different: for better or worse, the Lafayette County supervisors finally took a stand on Monday. So, instead of perpetuating the anger that’s prevailed over the last few weeks, make an impact where it really matters.  

If you don’t agree with their decision, the decision is yours on Election Day.