The Transylvania Times -

Reconsider HRC

 


Last week the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to dissolve the Human Relations Council (HRC). The move was premature and shortsighted.

The commissioners said they would revisit their decision in the future if they are presented “specific goals.” This is a reversal of logical operating procedures. It’s analogous to firing someone and then telling that person which flaws he or she needs to correct in order to be rehired.

If commissioners had problems with the way the HRC was operating, they should have discussed their concerns with the HRC and asked the HRC to address those issues. If they believed the HRC was too political, they could have set some guidelines to make it less political. If they believed the HRC needed some “specific” goals, the commissioners should have informed the HRC of the specificity they desired. In fact, the latter was the recommendation of the Citizens Advisory Council, which is chaired by Page Lemel, the only commissioner to vote to keep the HRC intact. That council recommended the HRC continue but that the HRC revise its mission statement and bylaws. That was the logical way to proceed.

The HRC has served and could continue to serve a significant purpose in the community. Initially, the focus was on improving race relations. While racial relations are “not as bad as they used to be,” there still is much work to be done. Racism may be not as overt or as extensive as it once was, but it still exists.

Ethnic prejudice also exists. Some members of our relatively new and growing Hispanic community have been treated differently. Though dozens of people have helped organizations like El Centro promote the assimilation of Hispanics into the larger community, discrimination still exists.

Commissioner Larry Chapman said that he’d rather have churches or civic groups take the lead in handling human relations. While churches and civic groups do serve important functions, they may not be the best vehicles for resolving such issues. Churches are one of our most segregated institutions; they are segregated by race, geography, economics and ideology. In the 1960s when black Americans were advocating for full civil rights, many religious leaders participated and marched in support of extending those rights. But there were other religious leaders who actively fought against the extension of those rights. And once school integration became law, many white churches opened up their own private schools so that their children could remain segregated from blacks. Geographically, people in the Rosman area attend churches in the upper end of the county just as people in Little River attend churches in the lower end of the county.

As for our civic organizations, they already do a great deal of work and it is unreasonable to ask them to do more. They already sponsor races, assist with food drives, and conduct various activities to meet the needs of students. Many of them are stretched to their capacity.

There also are areas in which churches and civic groups simply do not have the expertise, knowledge or authority to resolve issues. How can they remedy a situation if individuals or certain communities believe they are being discriminated against by law enforcement or employers due to their age, skin color, gender, or sexual orientation?

To view HRC as a committee solely concerned with racial relations is shortsighted. There are many disparate groups in this community, many of which have little or no contact with each other. Last Friday night there were hundreds of people attending Gallery Walk in downtown Brevard and thousands attending the Brevard-Rosman football game. It’s reasonable to assume that many of the latter never attend Gallery Walks and many of the former never attend football games. Other examples of our disparateness or lack of “unity in the community” include the people in Rosman long believing they are the “red-headed stepchild” in this county; the disconnect between newcomers and multi-generational families, as expressed in the phrases “hillbilly redneck,” or “You aren’t from here, are you;” or the conflict between some automotive drivers and cyclists.

We live in a great community, but as it becomes more diverse it also can become more fragmented. We need the Human Relations Council, with the backing of local government, to help us become more unified and less fragmented.

 
 

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