If we’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that our elected officials don’t always make the best decisions. In the latest case of “you can’t make this stuff up,” a South Carolina County Councilman showed up to a March 4 community event in Greenville wearing an overtly racist t-shirt and had the nerve to post a photo of himself wearing the shirt on his Facebook page.
As reported by The Herald, Greenville County Councilman Lynn Ballard showed up to the event wearing a t-shirt with a Confederate flag, a motorcycle and a scantily-clad woman. The words “used but not used up” were written at the top of the shirt. If your blood isn’t already boiling, it’s important to note that the event was sponsored by Upstate Circle of Friends, a Greenville-based non-profit organization that works primarily with Black and Hispanic youth. Upstate Circle of Friends was founded by Evelyn Deloris Pinson in 2006 to provide educational and recreational support to at-risk children and their families. Oh, did I forget to mention that Ms. Pinson is a Black woman with a black staff?
Bruce Wilson, a community activist with aspirations of a South Carolina House of Representatives seat, is outraged and calling on Ballard to resign. Wilson says he became aware of the photo when a screenshot of Ballard’s post was shared with him. That led him to share his own screenshot directly from Ballard’s Facebook page with the rest of the Greenville County Council. As of this writing, none of the other council members have commented on the record.
Although he has no plans of relinquishing his position, Ballard has deleted the photo from his social media accounts. He released a statement of apology on March 11 after being pressured by members of the community to address the matter.
“As a public official, I strive never to upset anyone. I meant no disrespect to anyone on either side of the issue. I made a mistake. I admit the mistake. I’m sorry for my poor choice and I promise to work hard to heal any damage that my actions have caused.”
But Bruce Wilson thinks Ballard’s apology is too little too late. While he acknowledged that Ballard has made efforts to support the black community, Wilson stressed that his wardrobe choice was completely tone-deaf. Not only is the Confederate flag an offensive symbol to the black residents of Greenville, but the half-dressed woman in the image is inappropriate at an event that was organized for children.
After calling for Ballard to make a public apology to the community, the Council on American-Islamic Relations released a statement in response to his apology. The organization has called for the removal of Confederate flags around the country.
“We welcome Mr. Ballard’s public apology and urge elected officials and community leaders nationwide to follow his example of finally recognizing the negative impact such symbols of systemic racism and white supremacy have on our society.”
Lynn Ballard was elected to the Greenville County Council in 2014 to represent areas in the southern and western parts of the county. African Americans make up 18.4 percent of the county’s population.