EDITORIAL: Find final chapter in Grandview saga

Staff report
From left, Sandra Thompson, Carolyn Dow and Sandra Harrison listen as Myneca Ojo, right, give testimony during the second Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission hearing at York City Council Chambers Friday, June 22, 2018. The hearing was in response to allegations that the four and another member of the Sisters in the Fairway were racially harassed during an incident at Grandview Golf Club in April. Bill Kalina photo

More than a year after it first drew unwanted national attention to York County, the so-called “Grandview Five” incident seems no closer to being resolved than the day it made headlines.

That’s too bad.

The incident, which saw former York County Commissioner Steve Chronister call the cops on what he says was a group of slow-moving golfers — five women of color — when they refused to leave his family’s Grandview Golf Club in Dover Township, became yet another in a long string of examples of the nation’s ongoing racial disconnect.

A settlement to the dispute could provide something entirely different: A much-needed example of reconciliation.

Unfortunately, any such détente seems about as likely at Grandview these days as a hole in one.

A settlement offer made by Chronister through the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission was struck down by several of the women as “insulting,” in the words of one of them, Hanover Borough Mayor Myneca Ojo.

“Why would we want to deal with him?” she continued. “As long as he’s owner of the golf course, we’ll never step foot on that golf course and we will not work with him in any capacity.”

That doesn’t sound very promising.

Nor does Chronister’s continued insistence that his actions were blameless. He says the women, who charged racial discrimination and at one time sought $500,000 each, are trumping up their allegations in search of a payday.

"Why would I give them money if we didn’t do anything wrong?” Chronister told the Dispatch. “This was a money grab from the very beginning.”

Clearly, the two sides are headed in the wrong direction.

And where is the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in all of this?

The commission held two days of hearings two months after the incident and it has hosted several town hall meetings on diversity and racial inclusion — including one just this month. But it has yet to offer promised suggestions on the initial golf course conflagration.

The delay is unconscionable, and represents another missed opportunity, as PHRC Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter must surely realize.

“This could be the springboard of a collaboration between us, the mayor and the NAACP to talk about race relations in the county,” he said during the PHRC hearings in June 2018. “We can make a change out of this.”

Please, do. Because change is most definitely needed, particularly in a region where members of the Ku Klux Klan’s White Knights of America distribute recruitment materials and racist filers targeting Mayor Ojo are distributed. Elsewhere in the state, Confederate flags fly proudly while incidents like the arrest of two African-American men waiting on a friend at a Philadelphia Starbucks bring shame.

Regarding the Grandview case, the two sides don’t even agree on what the settlement offering consisted of. Chronister says it was two years’ free membership and lessons at the golf club; York NAACP President Sandra Thompson, another golfer from the group, said she was told it was a one-year membership, lessons, and employees undergoing sensitivity training.

So, instead of the opportunity for collaboration PHRC leader Lassiter foresaw, the Grandview incident appears to be simply a reflection of the state of race relations in America today: Two sides talking past each other, not agreeing on basic elements, demonstrating little in the way of faith or confidence in the other side.

There is still time to write a better final chapter to this saga. There is still opportunity to turn what has been a painful and embarrassing incident into a lesson in understanding, contrition and forgiveness. We urge all sides to consider ways to do so.

This much is clear: York County, Pennsylvania, and the nation as a whole would certainly benefit from the example such a reconciliation could provide.