It’s a shame that Greensboro’s city council election will be postponed until next year, because it is generally the only odd-year election in our coverage area. So we have a lot of institutional knowledge about it, have close access to many of the players and, sometimes, can sense when things don’t smell right.
Consider the case of Marcus Smith, who died on the ground at the 2018 Folk Festival while EMTs and the cops who hogtied him looked on. Perhaps it goes without saying that Smith is Black, but we’re saying it here, again, anyway.
No criminal charges have been filed against Greensboro police, but a civil lawsuit filed in 2019 has so far cost the city more than $1 million in lawyer’s fees — they are represented by Alan Duncan, the former chair of the Guilford County School Board. The case has generated an enormous amount of paperwork and billable hours. The city has indicated a reluctance to settle with Smith’s family, which has dragged the thing very close to the next council election — one in which a popular incumbent mayor who makes an effort to stay in touch with Black folks, Nancy Vaughan, faces off against an actual Black guy, Justin Outling.
What’s politically bizarre is that neither candidate has accepted Marcus Smith, who some have called our own version of George Floyd, as a campaign issue, which in turn means that neither is courting progressive groups who adhere to the ethos of Black Lives Matter. In fact, neither has voted to settle with the Smith family, which is a stated goal of local activists.
And because a candidate cannot win a citywide election in Greensboro without what the old-timers call “the Black vote,” one wonders at the calculus.
Surely, in 2021, the Black vote is not necessarily a monolithic thing — and perhaps it never was, existing only in white pollsters’ oversimplifications.
So these candidates are betting that most Black voters don’t sympathize with Marcus Smith and his family, writing off the Black Lives Matter protests in his name as politically irrelevant.
But most Black folks seem to agree that police should not be able to kill them with impunity, ever, with one possible exception being the guy running for mayor.