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GOLDMAN: Mayor, school board move from ‘reformers’ to bullies

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

by Paul Goldman

RICHMOND, Va. – Boy, they “talked that talk” while campaigning last year.

Listen to the mayor and his allies on the Richmond School Board complaining how the rest of us were not enlightened as they on equal rights, minority rights, women’s right and of course the promise to reform Richmond education.

But “talk” is cheap as the saying goes. “Walking the walk” is a lot harder.

I thought the mayor and his allies actually believed in what the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Sr. taught. He said, and correctly so, that the test of a person’s principle were not in the talking stage – anyone could do that – but when forced to “walk the walk” in the tough cases.

Dr. King defended the rights of those who hated him. Why? Because like Lincoln, like John Adams defending the British troops, like Nelson Mandela, like my mom in defending the right of Nazis to march in a Jewish neighborhood, what makes America great is that we understand the price of having rights others in the world envy.

Simply, it is a “we” thing.

The reason Jefferson wrote his Statute of Religious Freedom, the reason Eleanor Roosevelt embraced those who had maligned her and defended their rights.

It is not about Ms. Harris-Muhammed. It is far more important. Why more important?

Earth to school board and Mayor Jones, you are simply using the situation as regards Ms. Harris-Muhammed to bully her off the board because you have or think you have the political power and standing to do it.

But in a majority African-American city, one where the mayor and his allies have long complained about an unfair justice system, I would have thought he and his school board “reformers” would at least have the conviction to honor the most basic of all rights in our society — the right to not to be bullied by politicians using the cover of “press stories” to carry out their own political agenda.

Few have been harder on 6th District School Board Member Shonda Harris-Muhammed than yours truly. I have criticized her in this space, on TV, and in other writings. If it were up to me, I would want her replaced on the school board.

But, like every other person in Richmond, she is entitled NOT TO BE TRIED AND CONVICTED in the press by the mayor and his allies on the School Board who are using an arrest of her husband on drug charges to FORCE HER TO RESIGN.

The police didn’t arrest her, they didn’t charge her.

School Board Chairman Jeff Bourne is allegedly a lawyer [the city is paying him a lot of money for legal advice] and so he of all people should be the first one to fight to protect someone’s right NOT TO BE TRIED IN THE PRESS AND A POLITICAL JURY FOR SOMETHING HER HUSBAND ALLEGEDLY DID.

As I have said, Richmond is the same plantation, just different owners.

But you say: “Paul, the school board is just trying to protect its reputation.” Sure enough, this is the School Board’s statement trying to force her out:

“The integrity and credibility of the Richmond City School Board and district are our paramount concerns. This Board is gravely concerned and deeply disappointed by what has been reported by the news media and the Richmond Police Department.”

Tell me one thing these alleged reformers, so “concerned” about education, have done to fundamentally change anything? Last year, the mayor apologized for being the cheerleader for the status quo in education. So did his allies on the school board.

But they have changed nothing to date: so they are using Ms. Harris-Muhammed as a scapegoat.

That’s the politics here.

It is simply wrong for the mayor and the School Board Chair, along with the majority of the Board to act like bullies. That’s the bigger reason for the state of education in Richmond today.

Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.

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