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Lake’s Confederate statue: Here’s what Leslie Campione should be sorry about | Commentary

Lake’s Confederate statue: Here’s what Leslie Campione should be sorry about | Commentary
Protesters hold signs and chants against the relocation of a Confederate statue in front of the Lake County Historical Museum in Tavares. (Stephen M. Dowell/AP)

Lake County Commission Chairwoman Leslie Campione said in a July 30 public meeting that she felt “sorry” for people who view the planned relocation of a statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith to their community as “indicative of current day racism.”

Here’s what Leslie Campione should be sorry for instead:

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1. Allowing five African-Americans to be left standing outside a locked door in the heat at the Lake County Historical Museum in August 2018 when they were supposed to meet with representatives of the museum’s board of directors to express their opposition to the statue. The five white museum representatives were notified in advance the meeting was cancelled. No formal apology from Ms. Campione was ever received.

2. Failing to bring a request to her fellow commissioners asking Gov. Rick Scott to delay the formal request to replace the statue of the general where it stands in National Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol, even though one of her African-American constituents asked her to do so in writing on Aug. 23, 2018, and again in a meeting Sept. 4.

3. Telling three constituents — two of whom were African-American — in that same September meeting with the commissioner that getting resolutions from Lake County cities opposing the statues “didn’t mean anything.”

4. For not acknowledging receipt of or responding to emails requesting specific actions be taken in her capacity as the county’s museum liaison.

5. For not once seeking to meet with the group of five African-Americans on the committee she tried to form in July 2018. Are we not part of the community?

6. For ignoring proof that museum Curator Bob Grenier, in an email to the state’s Division of Cultural Affairs, falsely wrote that Lake commissioners had already voted 5-0 in favor of the statue — 10 months before the vote actually took place. When it did, the vote was 3-2.

7. For not holding the July 30 vote in abeyance when notified of the curator’s improper behavior and after hearing about an email in which he stated that he had “fought the good fight for my Confederate friends” and remarked he would “stay true to your cause.” In that email, he called those in opposition “unruly, nasty and vicious people.”

8. For failing to represent about 150,000 of the Lake County residents covered by city resolutions opposing the statue — those who live in Tavares, Eustis, Mount Dora, Leesburg, Clermont, Mascotte, Groveland, Minneola, and Montverde. Nine of the 14 municipalities are against the statue.

I admit that people who aren’t racist sometimes unintentionally do and say racist things. What these people do when told that the thing that they have done or said is racist and it hurts is where the rubber meets the road.

They do the right thing. They correct themselves. Campione should ask herself why those fighting the statue might feel this way after a year dealing with this issue.

We’ve done our civic duty. We have resolutions from nine of 14 municipalities all against the statue coming to the county. We’ve engaged passionately. We’ve told the story. Nothing changed.

For me, the rubber met the road in the Lake County Commissioner’s Board meeting on Tuesday July 30, 2019.

Mae Hazelton lives in Eustis.

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