Racism claim rears its head

Published 10:15 pm Thursday, October 30, 2014

This is Suffolk — home of the last-minute smear letter delivered anonymously to voters’ mailboxes, home of the choreographed third-party campaign designed to split the anti-incumbent vote and thereby guarantee the re-election of that incumbent.

This is Suffolk. So it should be no surprise to anyone that the dreaded “R” word reared its ugly head during a Chamber of Commerce candidate forum on Tuesday. After all, there are some close city elections this year, and what better way to put a bit of distance between oneself and his opponent than to raise the red race card during a very public event. That was exactly the choice made Tuesday by Charles Brown, running for re-election for the City Council seat from the Cypress Borough.

Suffolk residents are still angry and looking for answers regarding a 14-percent raise given to City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn — the raise came in January 2013, despite council’s pre-2012 election decision to bow to the wishes of dozens of speakers at a public hearing and take a big raise off the table. In fact, folks are still so worked up about how the raise was brought back to the table after the election — and all without any public notice — that the matter took up a considerable part of Tuesday’s forum.


Email newsletter signup

But Brown, who serves as the city’s appointed vice mayor, cut quickly to what he considered the heart of the matter: People who oppose the raise for Cuffee-Glenn do so only “because she’s a black female,” he said.

Brown’s remark was met by a broad and loud round of jeers from the audience, but he stood by it as the night went on. “I speak the facts,” he added. “We hired her for equal work, but her pay was not equal. It was a slap in my face.”

On Wednesday, his supporters were doubling down on his statements, bemoaning the travesty and injustice of the fact that comments that appeared below the Suffolk News-Herald’s online story inevitably branded Brown as racist for seeing only racism in the opposition to council’s action. “People should not make claims of racism against other people without proof,” one caller stated.

Indeed. But that’s a lesson Charles Brown and his supporters clearly have not learned. And the irony of the whole thing appears to have eluded them all, as well.

There are but a few days remaining before Election Day, and it might be a lot to ask — this is Suffolk, after all — but voters, non-voters, visitors and those who just read the news about this city would all prefer it if the ad hominem attacks were put away for the rest of the run.

Intelligent and informed citizens can have opinions about matters of municipal governance without resorting to bigoted racial stereotypes. Can the candidates for City Council do the same?