BY KARISSA MILLER
Iredell County Board of Commissioners Chairman James Mallory on Tuesday anounced the board’s intent to study and address racial inequity in the county.
Mallory’s announcement came after more than 50 days of protests surrounding the presence of a Confederate monument on the grounds of the Iredell County Government Center.
“It’s apparent, after having very frank and revealing discussions, there are a number of barriers that exist to African Americans that aren’t in law, but are in practice,” Mallory said during Tuesday’s board meeting.
The law, he explained, can be color blind in its black and white presentation, but it can have effects that are not necessarily contemplated by the law, including barriers that exist in many different facets of our lives and culture.
“Opportunity for all means that we take a long look at the system and processes that exist and see where there is discrimination, not intent, so that everyone has the opportunity to achieve their highest and best potential.”
The board has committed to a process, Mallory said, which will be coordinated with I-CARE’s chief operating officer Bryan Duncan, who provides a report on poverty and initiatives to address it to commissioners each year.
Other board members asked Mallory to create a template on the underlying issues and “a core direction” on how to organize the community to best address these matters.
“It’s not an effort that will happen overnight. The effort needs to begin very deliberately, but is a long-term project,” Mallory said.
According to Duncan’s outline, governments and charitable groups can help address poverty, but cannot solve poverty by themselves. The entire community must be involved.
There will be opportunities for all citizens to participate in this effort, Mallory said.
Along the way, there will be discussions of interconnected issues, such as the Confederate monument and other symbols that cause division along racial lines.
“The commission has not taken a position on the memorial yay or nay,” Mallory said. “We do not have a sense of the community’s consensus. There are two groups that have strongly held political beliefs … whether it should stay or be move moved or placed in context somewhere.”
“We are reserving judgment. We have not taken a position and will not take a position,” he added.
The process may illuminate and give some direction, Mallory said, but both groups should sit down and consider the other side’s position.
“We all need to be stroking the oar in the same direction so we can move to a better place,” Mallory said.
The board heard from several concerned citizens during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting.
A majority of those who commented expressed their concerns about Confederate monument becoming an unsafe place between the two groups that exist. Speakers on both sides shared detailed accounts of verbal attacks, chaotic shouting matches, their concerns for their health and safety and damaged property. Some also complained about law enforcement efforts.
Tom Poly of Love Valley addressed the commissioners on another matter. He asked for increased presence of the sheriff’s office and state police patrolling the area.
Poly said that recently a mother and son were almost hit by a speeder. A few weeks ago, a horse was hit by someone who may have been under the influence of alcohol.
“I hope that’s something we can resolve with the sheriff’s department, police and commissioners,” he said.