The article tells the story of an assignment Parks got from LIFE magazine in 1968:
For its March 8, 1968, issue, Life gave Parks both pen and camera. He went to Chicago and stood on a street corner, checking the light. He held nothing back.Think about those words as you read about what's being said about the ongoing community argument about whether to name a major street after Dr. Martin Luther King.
"Look at me and know that to destroy me is to destroy yourself," the photographer wrote in introducing his photo spread. "You are weary of the long hot summers. I am tired of the long hungered winters. We are not so far apart as it might seem. There is something about both of us that goes deeper than blood or black and white. . . . My children's needs are the same as your children's."
I am not saying that this issue has been handled in the most effective way by Lafayette Parish Council members Chris Williams and Louis Benjamin. But, politics and government are not just about personalities. Elected officials, by default, represent something larger than themselves. They represent the people of their districts. People who don't live in their district may or may not like them, but they are the elected representatives of those people.
Likewise, people cannot punish the elected representatives of citizens without punishing the citizens themselves.
Clearly, part of the dynamic of this discussion has been a decision by the white members of the Council and the Parish President to refuse to name a street after Dr. King as a means of punishing Williams and Benjamin for what those other leaders deem to be the personal failings of the two African American representatives on the council.
It sounds suspiciously like the white elected officials are saying that the real offense of Williams and Benjamin is that they "don't know their place" or some other relic of the Jim Crow era.
Regardless of whatever anyone thinks of Council members Williams and Benjamin it would be good to keep in mind that they are not just individuals, but the elected representatives of their districts.
Whatever cost the white elected leaders of this parish believe they are making Williams and Benjamin pay will be borne not just by those representatives and not just by their constituents. The cost of this intransigence and petty racism masquerading as a debate over council procedure will be to undermine whatever veneer of progressivism locals try to attach to the community through things like investments in technology.
Parks wrote: "Look at me and know that to destroy me is to destroy yourself." The other seven members of the Lafayette Parish Council and the Parish President should keep that thought in mind when this issue comes up again on March 21.