Ben Holder: "Stop pacifying symptoms"

These quotes are drawn from the third and final Public Hearings of the Greensboro Truth & Reconciliation Commission. Biographical information was contributed by the speakers, and is taken from the Hearings program. Speakers addressed this topic: "What does the past have to do with the present and the future?"

Ben Holder, a native Greensboro journalist, blogger and activist who has worked with the city for five years to eliminate blight. His targets have included illegal massage parlors, Randleman Road improvements and enforcement of ordinances against crack pipes and asbestos. As a reporter for the Carolina Peacemaker, he was a finalist for an investigative reporting award from the N.C. Press Association in 2001. His blog is online at The Greensboro Troublemaker.

"What kind of person is 'expendable'? What types of people are 'less' than others? Without a doubt, I would say poor people. It’s perfectly accepted and normal to have poor sections of any city in America. It is also reasonable to say that mainly minorities occupy the poor sections of American cities. It is a fact that Greensboro’s struggling neighborhoods are African-American neighborhoods."

"In the neighborhoods that are struggling... there’s no real economic development. The stores that are there sell 40 oz.s, cheap wine, sometimes I’ve seen them sell single bullets... If your atmosphere is ignorance and poverty, well, here comes the crime and violence."

"I think that we can review any police we want to review. We may not have subpoena power, but if there is actions taken by police officers that citizens don’t like, I don’t see why – what stops people from going in great numbers to City Council on TV and pointing this out. We have the capabilities to do that, but for some reason we like to sit and wait for us to be anointed to go do these things, when all we really need is to get up and go do it."

"Anyone who thinks that November 3, 1979 was not a racial issue is wrong. I also do not see this event as one that had nothing to do with Greensboro. To say the events concerning November 3, 1979 were without conspiracy and injustice is a statement full of ignorance."

"If you are able to, please imagine that armed caravan of Klansmen and Nazis as Black Panthers, heading to a Death to the Black Panthers march. How far do you think they would have gotten? Let’s say they did get there. Let’s say they do bring 88 seconds of violence and death. Do you think they would have an all-black jury judge them? Do you think that they would have been found not guilty? I don’t. What happened on November 3, 1979 stinks of racism. To ignore it is foolish. To be a leader and ignore it is irresponsible."

"As somebody...from Greensboro, I was extremely embarrassed to hear City Council people say that this had nothing to do with race, this had nothing to do with Greensboro. That’s an insult to me. I’m not dumb. I can see."

"The root of the Death to the Klan march was a battle to improve the working conditions at Cone Mills. The root of that battle was a fight to ensure fair treatment for the working class. The problem back then was that profit was more important than some people. That is still the problem today."

"I’m very sure that Jim Melvin never called Cone Mills and said, ‘hey, I hear you boys are making people sick because of unhealthy working conditions. You better straighten up.’ There’s very little regulation for the rich and powerful in Greensboro. There was very little in 1979; there’s very little today."

"It is my hope that this Commission will enable people to see the double standards. I hope the problems of racism becomes more discussed and less ignored. I hope the unlevel playing field in Greensboro is acknowledged. In order to fix a problem, one must first accept that there is one. I hope this Commission can help Greensboro leaders see the truth. I hope leaders will stop pacifying symptoms, and cure the disease."

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