May 16, 2017 10:31:01 AM
Charlie Box is wrong, not just once, but twice.
Box, a white Republican running for a third term as Ward 3 city councilman in Columbus, mailed a campaign letter to 700 people he identified as Republicans last week.
But he did not present his case as a choice between two political parties or even ideologies but on race.
In the letter he wrote: "We have a rare opportunity to maintain the current racial make up of the board at 4-2. We may even be able to move it to 3-3 for the first time in recent history. If we don't go vote, we could wind up with 6-0 on the council and I think that will be disastrous for the city."
At worst, Box's comments are racist. At best, they are incredibly tone deaf. In either case, it was wrong.
Given the opportunity to acknowledge that he chose his words recklessly, Box did not relent. He stands by the comments and defiantly argues they are not racist.
Sorry, Charlie. Wrong again.
When someone asks voters to make their choices based on the race of a candidate, that is a racist suggestion.
When increasing the white membership of the council is viewed as a good thing on that basis alone, it is racist.
When the idea of all of the council being one race is viewed as "disastrous," on that basis alone, that is racist.
That idea would be equally disturbing were it made by a black candidate.
By now, we should be much further along than this.
What is frustrating, aside from his inability to see and acknowledge his error, is that Box has been an effective council member. He has not displayed any animus toward the city's black population by the votes he casts. We do believe he has the city's best interest at heart.
But in this case, Box has done both himself and the city of Columbus a serious disservice. There can be no benefit to anyone from this "us vs. them" point of view.
White and black residents want and expect the same things from the city leaders they put into office: Safe neighborhoods, good streets, good schools, efficient government, a spirit of community and a reason to be optimistic about our city's future.
What we do not need are city leaders who make assumptions about people's abilities and motives based on race. Our community is divided enough as it is. When city leaders use race-based fear mongering in their campaigns, it sends a terrible message and undermines good faith efforts to become one united community.
What would truly be "disastrous" is if citizens choose board members who believe one race is better equipped to govern than another.
It's time -- long past time, in fact -- to put the Big We (all citizens, regardless of race) first.
If Box believes that, too, he'll say it and apologize for that campaign letter.
If he doesn't, it is up to the voters of Ward 3 to decide if he is fit for the office he seeks.