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Chuck Forrester says there was no racial motivation in the Guilford County commissioners' refusal to help sponsor a celebration marking the 30th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins. All right, then, why did the board's four Republicans vote as a bloc against spending $5,000 on this historic event?Chairman Forrester says taxes should go strictly for county services, not for commemorative events and ceremonies. These things should be underwritten by private subscription, he says. Former chairman Jackie Manzi concurs, and, whether you agree with her or not, her position has at least been consistent. Last month, when the commissioners agreed to give $50,000 to a group of High Point businessmen wanting to promote a proposed furniture museum, Manzi was the lone dissenter.

Evidently Forrester and fellow-Republicans Dean Dull and Calvin Hinshaw saw $50,000 worth of public purpose in promoting a furniture museum but none at all in marking what may have been the most noteworthy event in Greensboro since the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. What is the distinction? The race of those requesting support is the most obvious difference, but we are assured by the chairman that it didn't matter.

Is it that a furniture museum celebrates economic activity while the sit-in anniversary merely marks a milestone of civil justice? That couldn't be it. Over the long haul, desegregation has surely been more of an economic boon to Guilford County than the furniture industry, as important as it is.

The only other explicit clue to the puzzle was Commissioner Calvin Hinshaw's curious explanation that his religious faith as a Quaker prevents him from taking part in celebrations of any kind, including Christmas. If that's his personal creed, he's entitled to it, although we know of no Quaker doctrine to support him.

But the question was not whether Hinshaw would participate in a sit-in celebration or buy a ticket to the gala. The question was whether the county should help with the cost of this event. The commissioners vote as county trustees, not as Quakers or Baptists or Catholics or Jews. It's time Hinshaw learned to distinguish between his public duties and his private thoughts as a Quaker.

As for Forrester and Dull, their protectiveness of the public purse is simply too selective to be a credible explanation of this vote. Yes, of course, Guilford County social services are woefully under-funded in some areas and, true enough, a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. But when the commissioners would have to spurn ten sit-in anniversaries to match the amount cheerfully handed over to the Furniture Discovery Center (proposed), no serious journey to austerity is under way.

Turning down the sit-in celebration was either an incredibly myopic or a mean-spirited thing to do. The commissioners ought to reconsider.


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