Human Relations Council needed now more than ever

Published 6:10 pm Friday, June 19, 2020

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To the Editor:

For over 20 years, I have petitioned the Pitt County Board of Commissioners to enact an ordinance establishing a Pitt County Human Relations Council.

In 1998, the honorable Commissioner Farney Moore—now deceased—was my lone supporter. Since then, my calls for such a council have fallen on deaf ears, though I was not the only voice crying in the wilderness. Now, it appears that the board has come to its senses and realizes the value of a countywide council in the wake of heinous police murders of unarmed black men at the hands of the police.

For the record, I do not support a feel-good council that focuses more on eating cookies and drinking tea than on the real issues involving discrimination, racism, and lack of tolerance and peaceful interactions among the citizens.

The Pitt County Commissioners recently voted to enlarge the existing Greenville City Human Relations Council. As I have stated in the media repeatedly, all townships within Pitt County must be represented adequately. Hence, I prefer a Pitt County Human Relations Council rather than enlarging the existing one in Greenville.

The City of Greenville and the county have not gotten along well, historically. For example, there is controversy about whether the City would have too much control of the Economic Development Commission if the two entities merge as a joint Human Relations Council. Moreover, there are other turf battles that may present problems ahead.

The aforesaid Human Relations Council should have Fair Housing Act enforcement power as is the case with Durham City, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and Orange County HRCs. Such power means the council could investigate, conciliate, mitigate, and litigate fair housing complaints. They could make recommendations to the city or county government.

Finally, any Human Relations Council should welcome complaints about law enforcement regarding excessive force and racial profiling cases.

Keith Cooper