We can only hope and pray the day never comes that Columbia County is infected with racist stupidity as viral as is currently rampant in Augusta.
Consider the gathering last week behind Augusta's Municipal Building, in which elected officials and preachers insisted a candidate be disqualified from running for office because of his race.
One of the ministers went so far as to say legal action might be needed to prevent the man's election - because he is white.
The Rev. Alexander Smith is president of the Augusta area chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He also is a racist.
Let's face it: We can't imagine the outrage if white elected officials and ministers gathered at the courthouse to insist legal action might be needed to keep a black man out of anything.
Oh, wait: We don't have to imagine it. Our nation lived through it, in the 1960s, when white racists tried to prevent black people from attending universities or eating at restaurants. We lived through marches, riots, murders and assassinations before we evolved to where no one legally could be prevented from taking part in society simply because of his or her race.
And now we see an effort to return to that racist era.
Smith has been vocal in recent months on behalf of identifiably black causes. Those gathering last week, in fact, referred to themselves as a "collective body representing every aspect of the black community." Substitute "white," and ponder the collective reaction.
Augusta Mayor Pro Tem Alvin Mason deserves applause, by the way, for rejecting the idea that the group spoke for all black people.
This isn't the first race-baiting effort from Smith. We saw him in action a few months ago here in Columbia County when he tried to paint John Deere as racist because, in his eyes, the company didn't do enough after a black female worker accused a white male supervisor of trying to put a noose around her neck in an asinine "prank."
The supervisor was immediately fired. I'm not sure what else Smith wanted done, unless he hoped the supervisor would be hanged.
The "mass rallies" Smith tried to foment over the John Deere incident have fizzled. But lately he has found a new Lost Cause: Imprisoned ex-state Sen. Charles Walker.
Walker is serving a 10-year prison sentence for dozens of counts of theft and fraud. In tune with Walker's other apologists, Smith claims Walker is a victim of politically motivated prosecution.
Such a prosecution would require a conspiracy of immense proportions. Specifically, it would require the FBI to be politically motivated in investigating Walker, and then to collude with the U.S. attorney to indict Walker for political purposes.
More political motivation and collusion would then be needed from the federal grand jury, from the judge at the trial, from the 12 jurors who decided Walker's guilt, from the federal district court of appeals that confirmed Walker's guilt and sentence, and from the U.S. Supreme Court justices who rejected his appeal.
In a word, preposterous.
Walker was a shadow over last week's rally. The "collective body" claims Augusta's consolidation bill, authored by Walker, requires a city commission with five white members and five black.
The racists are alarmed because of the possible election of Matt Aitken, a white man in a majority-black district. If Aitken were elected instead of William Fennoy - who says he visited Walker in prison - it would create a 6-4 white majority commission.
That could be a "constitutional violation," claims Smith. Yet it was revealing that someone from the "collective body" literally hushed the others when they were asked if two black candidates likewise should have been discouraged from running in a majority-white district.
It is abundantly clear: Alexander Smith is a racist. The SCLC, an organization born in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, should expel him from their ranks just as quickly as John Deere fired that ignorant supervisor - and for precisely the same reasons.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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