[Ed. Note — The commentary below was written by qnotes staff member Lainey Millen who, after learning of the ongoing controversy regarding hate leader Louis Farrakhan and local officials’ responses to him, felt a strong conviction to share her personal views on the matter. This newspaper and its staff stand strongly in support of Millen, a Jewish woman of faith. Millen has had no role in the reporting of any recent news or in any editorial decision-making processes regarding the controversy surrounding Farrakhan, Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield or other elected officials. — Matt Comer, editor]
After digesting all of the hoopla going on about Charlotte City Councilperson LaWana Mayfield attending an event that featured Louis Farrakhan, I must tell you all that I am totally outraged!
As someone who is Jewish, I take strong offense to what he stands for. His rhetoric is totally anti-Semitic and that just plain doesn’t jibe with me at all.
When I was growing up in a small southern town, I was on the receiving end of anti-Semitism. I had classmates who were not allowed to hang with me because I bore the sign of the star. And, that did not end there. My family and I were routinely subjected to anti-Semitic verbal abuse and social ostracism. In school, I also faced physical abuse from my teachers and peers.
As a public servant, I can buy that Mayfield may have to hear her constituent’s concerns, including those with which she may disagree. That’s part of the territory when serving as a public official. But, she does not have to agree with them. She has to be open-minded and objective. I equate the concept to this scenario: I’m Jewish. I don’t eat pork and shellfish. If I go to an event and they are served, I simply don’t eat. I can’t tell you how many barbecues I have been to where I’ve eaten coleslaw sandwiches.
Now, if Mayfield goes to an event with someone like Farrakhan, she can listen, but she does not have to participate, or even worse, comment. She appeared to have agreed with him, i.e., “doing G-d’s will.” Well, if someone is a person who does G-d’s work, then that person should never espouse hate speech. He’s gone on record as having done so. How can a lesbian, black woman who I am sure has undergone some sort of discrimination during her life, even begin to align herself with someone who is so filled with hate? How can she, in good conscious, rally in any way with a person who has such an anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT record?
Hate led to the destruction of over six million of my people and many others including gay people at the hands of Adolf Hitler and his crew. These monstrous atrocities began with mere words and rhetoric and were ended only by the further killing of millions more in a world-wide war. Yet, anti-Semitic hate still lives on. Since then there has been a rise in neo-Nazi support and the Ku Klux Klan has even adopted anti-Jewish views. All this makes my skin crawl.
Personally, I think that just because she’s invited to an event, she does not have to agree to go. Nancy Reagan said it so right: “Just say no.” Public servants don’t have to go to everything they are asked to. At some point, one has to exercise their stand on morality and ethics. Mayfield, it seems to me, did neither. Her mere presence at the event surrounding the weekend in question violated her morals as a diversity champion. And, on the ethical stance, the award-winning Human Rights Campaign and North Carolina Black Pride Movement councilperson, seems to have trouble seeing that her actions and statements have violated the trust of her LGBT constituents and community. You can’t have it both ways. Either you stand up for and support those whom you value or you don’t. Her moral obligation, as a human, to stand against hate appears to have come second to her “duty” as a council representative.
All she has to say is, “I made a mistake. I should not have publicly appeared to have shown any support to Louis Farrakhan. I realize that in doing so that I set off a firestorm of negativity around my role as a government official and a leader within my local LGBT community. In retrospect, maintaining a neutral stance would have been better.”
I’ve worked for the government, both on the national and local levels. In that role, I am instructed to be non-partisan and non-judgmental, to listen and provide the information that is requested of me. Mayfield didn’t do that. And, now she is being asked to distance herself from hate. She has refused. How hard is it to say no to hate?