By Dave Oedel
Bibb County Board of Education member Lester Miller has incurred the ire of a local microaggression posse calling itself the “Concerned Clergy of Middle Georgia.” That group issued a flier last week complaining, first and foremost, that Miller shouldn’t be calling minority business owners “horses.”
During a BOE subcommittee meeting on May 21, 2015 about minority participation in BOE contracting, Miller used an idiomatic saying, “You can take a take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” Miller was referring to the difficulties that the BOE has experienced in finding qualified local minority firms to bid on BOE contracts.
The “Concerned Clergy” posse took offense at Miller’s use of the phrase, as if Miller’s usage was, in itself, an affront to minority business owners. The flier bristled, “Minority Business Owners . . . Are not horses.”
By using the phrase about not being able to make horses drink, Miller was apparently only intending to communicate the BOE’s difficulties in contracting with qualified minority firms, rather than insulting them. But Miller’s good faith was irrelevant to the Concerned Clergy.
In general, the speaker’s intent is irrelevant to microaggression posses who claim that their own perceptions of harm should warrant apologies from unintentional “aggressors” like Miller.
The dearth of viable minority-led business is a genuine problem in Bibb County, where qualified minority contractors can be hard to find. Even entry-level jobs in East Macon are going unfilled because of a lack of interest – the subject of a future Macon Monitor piece.
The reasons behind the lack of robust African-American economic engagement in Bibb County are complex, but it is not because African Americans are a minority in the county. According to U.S. census data, African Americans constitute an absolute majority of Bibb County residents.
Whatever the deeper problems, the Concerned Clergy of Middle Georgia seemed to want to poke at Miller for his word usage rather than highlight or discuss the real reasons behind private-sector economic non-engagement among Bibb’s African Americans.
Miller responded to the Concerned Clergy’s charge by saying, “I refuse to respond to those who wish to divide the community. I have and will continue to support the equal opportunity for every business to secure contracts with the Bibb County School system . . . . As good stewards of taxpayer money, we must insist on getting qualified workers and competitive prices no matter the color of a person’s skin or their gender.”