We, the people of the Southeastern United States, have been stereotyped. Thanks to decades of images featuring Confederate flag-waving citizens, water cannons pointed at Black demonstrators and public figures like George Wallace and Bull Connor spouting racial hatred, it’s no mystery as to why most of the nation and the world look down upon the American South.

They see us as a region filled with White racists and oppressed people of color.

On June 10, that world view once again was validated when a bigoted rant appeared on the Facebook page of Brunswick County Commissioner Mike Forte. The public outcry has been swift and fierce. A petition demanding the commissioner’s resignation was signed by more than 1,500 people in a matter of days. Letters and editorials from angry citizens appeared on opinion pages in every regional newspaper.

One thing, however, has been missing: Not a single Brunswick County mayor or commissioner has issued a statement publicly condemning Forte. There’s an expression that we hear often in the Trump era: Silence equals consent. Only two possible explanations exist for this silence. The first is that these public officials agree with Forte’s Facebook rant and that their failure to speak out represents a tacit endorsement of its content. The second explanation is that they are too frightened to make their opinions public.

North Carolina officials were not elected to represent White citizens. They were elected to represent all citizens. If they are too bigoted or cowardly to stand up and condemn racism, they have no business serving in any public capacity. They have betrayed our Constitution and those they swore an oath to protect.

The writer lives in Southport.

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