Although the racist elements of American society have gotten their time in the spotlight via President Donald “fear immigrants” Trump, the opposition remains strong too. This week down in Hoschton, Georgia, angry locals confronted a long-serving city councilman who had derided interracial marriage as supposedly anti-Christian in conversation with local media. Originally, the town’s racism issue had centered on Mayor Theresa Kenerly allegedly rejecting an otherwise qualified city job applicant because he was black — but then that councilman Jim Cleveland joined the fray on her side.
The issue boiled over into a council meeting this Monday night that was open to the public. There was no actual public comment period during the meeting, but protests erupted all the same when Kenerly moved to end the hearing after only about 15 minutes. Councilwoman Susan Powers had right then and there publicly called for Kenerly and Cleveland to resign, and following Kenerly trying to bail, resident Shantwon Austin was among many to share the similar sentiment:
‘You do not represent our city and I didn’t move here for that.’
Although Kenerly seems to have gotten away from the meeting without facing much more than that, protesting Hoschton residents met Cleveland in the parking lot, deriding him as “evil” and a “disgrace” and calling on him to resign.
Hoschton, GA Councilman Jim Cleveland defending his unprompted comments on interracial marriage after a town hall (via Sharon Diane on Facebook): @CNN @andersoncooper @ajc @stacyabrams pic.twitter.com/5bddw4n6gb
— savannah (@shortvanburen) May 7, 2019
The official insisted that he was “not racist” and seemed ready for a fight via a recall election that some had threatened, which would give locals in the comparatively small town the chance to vote on whether he should get to stay in office. He whined in response to those who confronted him:
‘I’m not a racist. They don’t know how hard we work for this city. I’ve put 10 years in and haven’t drawn a dime or salary or anything else. Just my love of the city.’
Cleveland’s previous comments certainly weren’t marked by any kind of “love.” He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
‘I’m a Christian and my Christian beliefs are you don’t do interracial marriage. That’s the way I was brought up and the way I believe… But when it comes to all this stuff you see on TV, when you see blacks and whites together, it makes my blood boil because that’s just not the way a Christian is supposed to live.’
Kenerly, for her part, has denied making the explanation for rejecting a job application that’s attributed to her, although two fellow members of the city council went on the record to the city attorney with the allegations. She did not explicitly address the issue during Monday’s council hearing; although there’s no apparent word of a pending criminal case, racial discrimination in hiring has been illegal under federal law for decades.
Although there’s been a round of condemnation for Kenerly and Cleveland from everyone from a former Hoschton mayor to local Republican and Democratic party officials to nationally prominent figures like Erick Erickson, the area has actually seen a controversy like this before. In 2016, local GOP state Rep. Tommy Benton called the Ku Klux Klan “not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order.” Apparently a version of the past decades and even centuries old has been spreading its virus.
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