No Love, No Justice, No Peace in Moore County
On Valentine's Day, a large group of Moore County citizens turned out to the "Take Back Our Bridge" event in Vass, NC. The event was sponsored by the Coalition for Peace, Love, and Justice. The peaceful demonstration (near one of the bridges on US 1 that has been repeatedly vandalized with racist and Nazi themed propaganda) was intended to inspire unity, to fight back against hate speech, and to thank the leaders of the town of Vass for taking a strong stand against racism and hate. Those who attended the event reported that it was a wonderful experience, full of love and acceptance. Many said it gave them hope that Moore County could speak with one voice to rebuke those in our midst who promote division, anger, and racism.
As I read the press coverage of the Take Back Our Bridge event, I also experienced the warm feeling of tentative hope. My hope got stronger as I read the half a dozen emails and messages from people who were there and described the feelings it inspired in them in positive and glowing terms. Unfortunately, several hours later, my feelings of warmth and hope faded and were replaced by a sinking and sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Late yesterday evening, Steve Woodward's electronic GOP newsletter made its way into my inbox. As I skimmed over the section dealing with the reassignment of former Crain's Creek principal Melonie Jones to Pinecrest High School as an assistant principal, I became increasingly uncomfortable -and yes- down right angry. I won't get into the Crain's Creek saga - that is another commentary for another day - but I will point out that MoCo BoEd Vice-chair David Hensley's attempt to distance himself from the "mob" that HE incited is laughable. As disturbing as Hensley's too little, too late defense of Jones is, it's nowhere near the most offensive thing in that newsletter.
Woodward places the blame for the problems at Crain's Creek on the previous Moore County Board of Education and their redistricting decisions. Perhaps there is a legitimate discussion to be had regarding that point. Unfortunately, Mr. Woodward also lays the blame squarely at the feet of CHILDREN, specifically children from minority and socioeconomically challenged households. Mr. Woodward states, and this is a DIRECT QUOTE, "a swarm of hostile students from Southern Middle School quickly overwhelmed Crain's Creek staff and turned the Carthage campus into a war zone."
Let's be clear here, just because Mr. Woodward doesn't use the terms "black students" or "poor students," that is exactly who he is talking about. It is also telling that Mr. Woodward deliberately leaves out the CRITICAL fact that those children were taken out of their community school and sent to a majority white campus where they were never welcomed, never wanted, endlessly tormented, and never provided with adequate resources or services.
This isn't the first time Mr. Woodward has made controversial public comments that are harmful to our community. He infamously wrote a letter to the editor of "The Pilot" describing veterans working at a local small business as "tattooed punks" and the town of Robbins as "garbage infested eyesore inhabited by subsidized entitlement addicts." He often places incendiary and divisive billboard sized signs in his front yard, forcing his neighbors to see them every day. He used the Moore County GOP's official social media accounts to "declare war on leftist educators." He called on former Moore County BoEd Chair Libby Carter to be "destroyed." Now he is using his GOP newsletter to attack our community's most vulnerable children with thinly veiled racist rhetoric.
The Moore County GOP continues to not only associate with Mr. Woodward, but to place him in leadership positions and allow him to communicate on its behalf. It seems no matter how offensive or racist Mr. Woodward's words are, the MoCo GOP refuses to denounce them. In fact, so long as he remains the point person for official GOP communications to the community, it seems as if the party endorses and embraces his hate speech.
So, on the very day that Moore County Citizens came together to denounce hate and celebrate love, the mouthpiece of the Moore County GOP sent out a newsletter attacking children of color and low socioeconomic backgrounds. Mr. Woodward is a leader in the MoCo GOP, and it is EXACTLY THIS sort of rhetoric that stirs up the kind of hatred in his followers that results in racist banners, downed power grids, and violence.
As long as the MoCo GOP remains silent and complicit, as long as Mr. Woodward is allowed to speak on its behalf - well, there will be no love, peace, or justice in Moore County.
***Commentary by CHeryl Christy. Cheryl can be reached at email@example.com
Press coverage of the “Take Back our Bridge” event:
Previous coverage of Woodward: