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Color Me Outraged

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If I wanted to apply for the job of Mecklenburg County Manager, the first thing I’d do is declare that I’m not a “white male” — and I’m really not! (I just checked in the mirror and I’m actually kind of beige, so I do hope that would help my chances.)

Kim Ratliff endlessly called herself “The Visible Choice” during the 2012 County Commission campaign — yet she was notably IN-visible (i.e. absent) at many candidate forums, interviews, property revaluation hearings, and was, in fact, the ONLY no-show for the ONLY televised debate of the entire campaign, (sponsored by the League of Women Voters and WTVI).

The self-proclaimed “Visible Choice” turned out to be a phantom stealth candidate and, sadly, the media never called her on it.

Kim Ratliff

Charges of racism are actually nothing new for Ms. Ratliff — although you’d never know that from the logic-defying silence of the media.

During the campaign, I publicly, directly and vigorously challenged Ms. Ratliff on the subject of racism -at the Temple Beth El Candidate Forum – questioning her enthusiastic attendance and vocal public support of notorious racist and anti-semite Louis Farakhan, during his Charlotte appearance the night before!

Stunningly, ALL OF THIS GOT A TOTAL PASS from The Observer and ALL the other print AND broadcast media — (except for Q-Notes, which ran a surprising and highly commendable series of in-depth articles and interviews on public officials and candidates who attended Mr. Farakhan’s Charlotte event).

In the 2012 election, with an electorate cajoled into pressing “D” for a straight-party vote and never informed by a distracted media about local candidates, the bottom line is that Ms. Ratliff got a free ride into public office.

At-Large County Commissioner is a public office which carries with it the sacred charge of representing ALL the people — yes, even “beige” males like me.

Ms. Ratliff’s disgracefully divisive and deeply offensive comments demonstrate that she is clearly unfit for this office. She should resign — but she won’t. Her colleagues should censure her and the voters should turn her out of office next year — and maybe they will.

For the record, yes, Ms. Ratliff’s expressed preference for a “non-white male” as our next County Manager is both sexist and racist at its core. Women of all colors should be just as offended and outraged as I am.

Ms. Ratliff has repeatedly offered an unconvincing “explanation” that she meant to say she wants a “diverse” person for the job. Well, that’s just another jaw-dropper.

What on Earth is a “diverse” person? The term is normally used to describe a varied group, not an individual without a comparative reference — unless perhaps Ms. Ratliff actually meant that we should be looking for an multi-racial, omni-faith, trans-sexual County Manager.  That would fit the bill and be a “diverse” person alright — but we’d be picking from a decidedly limited talent pool.

Any further defensive meandering, posturing and backtracking from Ms. Ratliff rings hollow after her jarring initial statement that she doesn’t regret her offensive comment: “Some residents may have taken it the wrong way, but I said what I said.”

Even as a former candidate, if I had made a public comment stating a strong personal hiring preference for a “non-black male” as County Manager, I would be crucified on page one of The Observer and in every other media platform.

With Paula Deen currently crashing and burning in a media firestorm over some offensive comment she admitted to making privately — 30 years ago — I guess there simply doesn’t seem to be much room or time left to cover Ms. Ratliff’s public transgressions from last year and last week!

The media can’t even report this story at all without dragging Commissioner Bill James into it for some desperately twisted form of “justification.” Can we please be clear? Mr. James had nothing to do with Ms. Ratliff’s comments or actions. NOTHING. Let’s deal with the issue at hand, please — and without the usual convenient distractions.

The media have an obligation to vet our candidates and educate the public, helping to create an informed electorate. In this case, the media failed miserably during the 2012 campaign — and have once again shown a shamefully glaring double standard during this most recent disgraceful display of ignorance, sexism and racism by a public official.

So now, as we face continued high unemployment and increased taxes in this still-challenging economy, we’re forced to once again focus on what divides us rather than what brings us together.

Elections have consequences. “Commissioner Ratliff” is one such consequence. And that uncomfortable, queasy feeling in the pit of our community stomach? It’s just an unfortunate consequence of one particular 2012 election result finally becoming “visible.”

Is it 2014 yet?

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