Letter to the Editor: Racial aspects of new city ordinance

Posted on Sep 13 2018 - 5:50am by Don Manning-Miller

Dear DM Editor:

DM journalist Taylor Vance has closely followed and reported well on the citizen challenge to the city of Oxford’s amendment to chapter 14 of the code. It would be amusing — if it were not so sad — that Oxford’s police chief and mayor say they “took offense” at allegations that the ordinance had racial motivation or bias. There are at least two aspects of possible racial bias in an action. One is intent, and the other is the practical effect. We can give the mayor and chief all the benefit of the doubt on intent, but that the ordinance, as they proposed it, was heavily discriminatory toward the only venue in town available to black student or citizen groups is undeniable. The dormant ordinance was rewritten and put on the fast track by the mayor and chief only after the shooting incident at The Lyric earlier in the year. At this event they publicly castigated and questioned the judgment of The Lyric for hosting an event by such a group. It happened that participants were members of a group of black student organizations that had held the same event for the prior two years, without incident. The mayor declared shortly afterward that the city was going to take action as a result of it. All self-serving denials to the contrary, the impetus for the ordinance was their reaction to the audience and to The Lyric in hosting the event. The original ordinance focused heavily discriminatory and unique provisions and imposed expenses on The Lyric, making its successful operation difficult. Due to sustained citizen and business pressure over time — slowly, provision-by-provision — the most discriminatory provisions were removed. The ordinance, as passed, contains heavy-handed, unnecessary and likely ineffective government intrusion into the operations of all liquor-serving businesses in the downtown area, but most of the racial profiling effects were defeated.

Don Manning-Miller

Vice President, Rust College

Resident, Oxford District One