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Lester Miller Resists the Microaggression Posse

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.”

Currently there are "7 comments" on this Article:

  1. Betty Cooley says:

    It is just a shame that old sayings such as the one Mr. miller used is now offensive to someone when people have used it for years! Watch what you say Pastors, it’s getting harder to preach without offending someone when you preach from the word! I know Mr. miller, and I know him to be a fine Christian man and would not offend anyone!

    • People have been using idioms forever. They are meant to explain plain facts in a simple and interesting way. They were not meant to degrade or cause anger or hurt feelings and I am positive Mr. Miller did not use this one in that way. So I say to you ” Concerned Clergy” forgive and forget and move on to some other pumped up grievance you may have or better yet “Clean Up Your Own Back Yard” OOPS Please don’t sue me for implying that your back yard is unkempt!

    • Keith Bryant says:

      It’s not really offensive to the CC, they are just ignorant people grasping for straws in an attempt to criticize someone way smarter than they are.

  2. charlene bell says:

    Lester Miller is a good man he has been doing a great job on the Board of Education think people take things the wrong way sometimes.

  3. Rene Carter says:

    Lester you just need to ignore ignorant people. The people that count knew what you meant. Love ya cuz.

  4. Cheryl Attaway says:

    I am a female who owns a business. Therefore I am a minority business owner. I am not offended in the least with Mr. Miller’s reference. Pastors who are wanting to “choose” to be offended need to choose another line of work. They are obviously not cut out for servant-hood.

  5. Radford Bunker says:

    The real question is why we should be talking about whether or not a contractor for BOE business in “minority owned” or not. The people spending the taxpayer’s hard earned money should not be taking into account the color of a bidders skin, but should be evaluating whether or not the bid submitted is the best deal the BOE can get. If a minority owned business can put together the best bid, then it should get the contract or contracts; if not the business should go to the concern that does.

    Chief Justice Roberts put it well in Parents Involved in Community Schools when he wrote that the ” way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” While I am sure the BOE is evading City of Richmond by using no hard and fast quotas, that Court’s admonishment that, “[t]he dream of a Nation of equal citizens in a society where race is irrelevant to personal opportunity and achievement would be lost in a mosaic of shifting preferences based on inherently unmeasurable claims of past wrongs” should be remembered.

    When we finally embrace each other not as men or women; not as black, white, latino, or asian, then we will have made real progress.

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