Mayor Jonathan McCollar used his executive privilege at the end of Tuesday’s council meeting to discuss the conversations and emotions present across the country in response to the death of George Floyd. He shared that approximately 300 people showed up to downtown Statesboro on Sunday to peacefully protest. “We showed America how you can peacefully disagree with things going on in our country.”
McCollar went on to say the following:
“To see those young people, well, people of all ages and races, come together in one voice saying that ‘enough is enough.’ I’m going to say this, and this is the mayor’s talk, but America has had a problem for a very long time and what my hope is is that this is the generation that has the courage to right a wrong that America has failed to address over the years.
And this is nothing to do with anyone feeling that ‘Hey, this is a political ideology,’ no, this is about human beings being treated like human beings. In America, we have to have the courage to address this because the world is watching us. And we cannot pretend to be the land of the free and home of the brave if we don’t treat all of our citizens the exact same way. If one is free, then all is free. But if one is not free, then none are free.
Dr. King said ‘A threat to injustice anywhere is a threat to all justice everywhere.’ And this is what America is facing right now. America – it’s time for us to have the courage to speak the truth. America, you have not dealt with the issue of race. You have not. And this is what we are facing right now and until we keep cloaking the fact – that fact in our politics, in our social clubs, in our education systems, in our criminal justice systems – until we have the courage to say ‘NO, this group of people are not being treated fairly,’ it’s going to be a threat across the board. We keep repeating this same cycle over and over and over again and we keep repeating it because we have not addressed it.
If you are tired of people protesting and you are tired of seeing our cities burn, then do something about it by having the courage to address the fact that these people are not out there lying, they are telling you the truth. It seems the only time that we can get the attention of the world is if some business is burned, but nobody says anything about the blood of these people running in the streets.
This country was founded on the idea of ‘no taxation without representation.’ We rallied and built a nation because we felt that we were not being represented. How do you think people feel when they feel that their lives – not their money – but their lives are not valued? That’s what this is about in America. And Statesboro, I’m not here to play with you, I’m not here to pretend with you, I’m not going to make you feel comfortable in your ignorance if you believe that we do not have a problem. I’m a mayor that’s going to tell you the truth whether you like it or not, whether it makes you uncomfortable or not, and I’m telling you our city is not exempt. We have the same foolishness, the same ignorance, the same bigotry right here in our community. And we must have the courage to address it. We must. I love this community entirely too much to lie to it.
We must make a change. If someone feels comfortable around you making bigoted comments and you don’t say nothin,’ you are just as wrong as they are. If you see a law enforcement officer, like we had with Officer Shababy, going around this community beating on people, and we had officers that knew this and did not say a word…the officer that don’t say anything is just as wrong as the officer that is doing the crime.
We want to have truth and righteousness in here. This is heartbreaking, and America, we better than this. We are better than this. Our potential means nothing if we’re not willing to put the work into moving our nation forward. I am tired. I’m tired of the lynchings, I’m tired of the shootings, I’m tired of all of this over and over again. It’s time for us to say timeout. It is time for us to stand up and be who we are. And if the data doesn’t tell you something’s wrong, and if the people that’s out there telling you that these things are happening within their communities, if you can’t believe them, you can’t believe the data, you can’t believe the history, then you are part of the problem because I don’t know how else it can be said. How else can it be said that we have a problem in our nation?
We have leadership that lacks the moral fortitude to do what is right. We never look for leadership to be perfect, but can we at least have leadership to try to get it right? And for those of you that’s standing up on the side of what’s right, I applaud you because as you can see, it’s not easy. It’s not easy work. We need allies across the board because America is black, it’s brown, it’s gay, it’s straight, it’s Hispanic, it’s black, it’s white…it is all of us and we don’t realize that all of our destinies are intricately intertwined to one another, then we don’t get what being American is about. This is about all of us and please know that if one America is suffering, then you are not going to be exempt. We are a nation that’s better than that.”
McCollar again noted that the statements were his and not those of Council.
Councilwoman Shari Barr echoed McCollar’s comments. “I just want to say ‘Amen’ to what the mayor said,” Barr told the room.
“It’s time for us to stop being shy and looking the other way. It’s time for allies to speak up when they see something wrong and I want to commend our police chief and I THINK that our local cops are doing a good job and I THINK that we are trying to maintain training and have accountability because all of us have these unseen biases that you grow up with and if you don’t consciously do the work, they come into play in the way that you treat people.
I’m proud of all the people in Statesboro of all colors of all backgrounds, those who came out to say ‘It’s time to be fair to everybody. It’s time to stop looking the other way.’ So thank Statesboro and those of you that were watching from the sidelines or commenting on Facebook, show up next time and not just the public demonstrations. Stay alert. Be an ally. When you see something going down that’s not right, be brave enough to just stand up. You don’t have to confront people, you don’t have to put yourself in danger, just be brave enough to stand up and be a witness when you have the opportunity. “