Greensboro community calls for apology from Mayor Knight

Greensboro Mayor Bill Knight’s failure to apologize for comments he made during last year’s election has prompted leaders of Greensboro’s black community to publicly call for Knight’s apology at a city council meeting in March. While campaigning for reelection last September, Knight said he believed former police chief Robert White and current police chief Tim Bellamy, both black, were hired because of their race, according to the Greensboro News & Record.

Knight added during a candidate’s forum that he felt former Police Chief David Wray, who is white, was forced out of office because of his race,” wrote News & Record staff reporter Ryan Seals. “Knight said the most qualified candidate should be chosen as chief, regardless of race.”

In January, Bellamy announced his intent to retire, stating that the move was unrelated to the comments Knight made during the mayoral election. According to the News & Record, Bellamy later stated that Mayor Knight’s comments regarding his race hurt him both personally and as a police official, indicating that the mayor’s comments were a part of why he was choosing to retire.

Bellamy was appointed as interim chief in 2007 following the departure of Wray, who left amid allegations of racial profiling and improper investigations of black police officers.

Many Greensboro residents, like Rev. Clarence Shuford, president of the Pulpit Forum of Clergy, addressed council during the meeting.

“Many citizens have come to me on the issue. I realize this is a touchy issue, but for many years I remember people being labeled because of the color of their skin. I urge for this apology so we, as a community, can move forward. We want to continue to grow as a diverse city. Things like this create a divide in the city,” said Shuford.

Shuford told The Guilfordian in a phone interview that the mayor’s comments did not just affect the chief, but also the entire Greensboro community. “Many remember the time when they were denied jobs because they were black,” said Shuford, “the mayor owes the community an apology so they can begin to heal from his words.”

Other leaders such as Rev. Cardes Brown, president of the Greensboro chapter of the NAACP and pastor of New Light Missionary Baptist Church, have fruitlessly called on the city council to denounce the Mayor’s comments.

Brown said clergy and community plan to take further action based on the reaction of the city council. Brown felt that by other council members remaining silent on this issue it showed their agreement with the mayor.

Rev. Nelson Johnson of Beloved Community Center and The Pulpit Forum agreed, adding, “Our mayor took the occasion to appeal to blatant racism using the chief. He insulted those in this city who have struggled for equal rights. That was the absolutely wrong way to address race.”

According to the Carolina Peacemaker, Guilford County Commissioner Melvin “Skip” Alston stood beside Brown and supporters during the press conference and expressed his support for the NAACP’s actions. “The mayor’s comments offended a whole segment of people. If he didn’t mean it, then he should apologize. If that is still his opinion, then we should know how he feels. We want to know if this is his opinion about other African Americans in high positions,” said Alston.

Neither Knight nor Bellamy was at the city council meeting. However, Bellamy’s office told The Guilfordian that the chief would just like to move forward with his life and focus on his duties as chief.

According to the Carolina Peacemaker, District 2 Council member Jim Kee disagreed with the clergy’s assessment of the statement. Addressing the city council, he said, “I just want to state that over the past months, citizens have come to me upset. I understand your concerns. I do disagree with the assessment made with the statement. The policy that hired the current chief will be the same policy that hires the next police chief. I realize you cannot control how other people see you, but you can control how you see other people and yourself. I want to state if we’re going to progress as a city and as a people, then we need to focus on what we have in common than what separates us.