Shortly after it was completed, the United We Stand mural on N. Poplar St. in front of First Federal Park was vandalized. We applauded its message and believe now as we did then that we need to put the bad things that have happened behind us and work together for the good of all.
Wayne Howard Staff Writer
Our editorial "Let's Move On--Together" has apparently had the exact opposite effect of what we wanted. Many Facebook commenters, most of whom have likely not read the entire article or who read it with an opinion already in mind and only looking to confirm that opinion, have bashed the writer, the Lincoln Herald, and others, who frankly are not the ones who did something wrong and stirred up a further division in our county.
When we first learned (last Saturday) about the vandalism at Lincolnton High School where someone had painted the spirit rock with the letters W-L, presumably for West Lincoln, and what we are told were racial slurs (we didn't know about those until Monday and didn't see photos of them--and those only partial--until Wednesday; we decided the best thing that could happen would be for the school officials and law enforcment to handle the matter. We didn't want to see it become a public battleground.
On Monday, this writer emailed Dr. Aaron Allen, Supt. of Lincoln County Schools, and told him what we had decided. He agreed in an email response that it was likely the best way to handle the matter.
Of course, not everyone shared our view. Someone, again presumably someone from Lincolnton, went out to West Lincoln and painted their spirit rock. The local newspaper ran a front page article about the rock at LHS. A Charlotte tv station sent a reporter and put out a story Monday evening. The principals of the two schools issued statements. On Wednesday, there was another front page article. On Thursday, Dr. Allen issued a news release, which we felt obligated to publish. We preceded his news release in our article with our own comments on our position. Some took great offense at our (not his) statement, "let sleeping dogs lie."
We sincerely apologize to Dr. Allen, who told us he has received much negativity because of our article. We posted a photo of him as the 'header' for it. We debated over what to put at the top of the article--we certainly didn't want to further exacerbate the matter by posting photos of either of the rocks. We used the photo of Dr. Allen because our comments were intended as a preface. His news release appeared We are today reposting Dr. Allen's news release in a separate article for which we invited him to write the preface.
What most don't know--they couldn't, they weren't born yet--is that in the 1950s an incident occurred involving someone from Lincolnton going to Cherryville and stealing Cherryville High School's Ironman. That situation, like this one, escalated--to the point where people threw Coke bottles and other debris at the bands when they performed at halftime. By the way, Coke bottles in those days weren't plastic, they were glass. That ncident created an animosity between the schools and the communities that continued long after the incident itself.
This year's incident has the added issue of race. Back in the '50s, the schools were segregated, so that was never involved. Now some of the Facebook commenters have taken the position that we, the Lincoln Herald, and I (personally) are accomodating racism. We were criticized for not pubicizing an effort to re-establish a local unit of the NAACP. Actually, the comment was the first we had heard about it; nobody had ever asked us for any publicity for the effort. There was reference to 'sweeping it under the rug' and 'the good old boys network.' That's very amusing considering that there are businesses who won't advertise with the Lincoln Herald because they consider us a 'left wing' publication. We said in our preface portion of that editorial that we thought those responsible should be punished--but we don't think stirring up more bad feelings against others because of where they live or go to school or their race or ethnicity is reasonable.
Things have developed to the point where one local minister is holding a prayer service at the rock at LHS on Sunday afternoon. The comments on Facebook continue to provoke rather than deter division.
This writer has said many times that racism in America and Lincoln County is alive and well. We still haven't fixed the problems of discrimination on account of race, religion, etc. But let's not continue to throw fuel on the fire by allowing these acts of vandalism to further divide us.
The people in West Lincoln that some would call 'rednecks' and those in Lincolnton including those who live in what some would call 'the 'hood' are all worthy of being treated as our neighbors--because they are. Maya Angelou said many profound things. Among them was this: We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.
We still say, let's put this behind us and move on--together.