When it comes to controversy, few people have ever generated as much as the late Louis Coleman. While alive, he was pretty much regarded as either a hero or a villain, with very little in between. And even his death hasn't quieted the debate.
Most recently, the two sides have been arguing over whether 34th Street should be renamed in his honor. I think it's a bad idea, and here's why:
Supporters of the proposal justify the honor by touting the good Louis Coleman did as a community activist. But sadly -- because he would have been out of business without it -- he often cultivated and nurtured the very racism he claimed to fight. Sometimes he created it where none existed and then picked at it until it hurt.
Far too frequently, the targets of his protests and his ever-present bullhorn were honorable businesses whose only crime was their refusal to subscribe to his wildly biased worldview. And usually, his intimidation tactics were designed not to right real injustices – which certainly exist -- but simply to coerce donations to his Justice Resource Center.
Louis Coleman made a lot of noise about racism. But many others have actually fought it -- more honestly and more effectively. So if we're going to hand out honors, I think people should be judged based on their whole character, not just the good parts fondly remembered.
I'm Bill Lamb, and that's my…Point of View.