Instead of condemning n-word, Sam Henderson doubles down on non-existent dirty politicking
Hand writing the word racism on blackboard. Stop hate. Against prejudice and violence. Lecture about discrimination or stereotypes in school.

Hand writing the word racism on blackboard. Stop hate. Against prejudice and violence. Lecture about discrimination or stereotypes in school.
His colleague got called out for complacency, but that's not what Gulfport's Mayor took issue with.

Instead of condemning the use of racial slurs, Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson pivoted to politics and lobbed allegations of dirty campaigning at an unsuspecting victim.

On Tuesday, I wrote about past reporting about race relations in the city of Gulfport, pointing to an article in Creative Loafing in which Gulfport City Councilmember Christine Brown, then the city’s vice mayor, was complacent in her husband’s use of the n-word in an interview.

Later that evening, Henderson brought up my column by way of a Facebook comment he read about it condemning racial slurs. Instead of condemning the word, Henderson implied that Brown’s political opponent this year, Mike Bauer, was engaging in dirty politics.

“When I see people using race to push their personal agenda and to get ground for their personal gripes, that’s really second only to being engaged in discriminatory racism yourself,” Henderson said. “You got to pay a lot of attention to the way that people campaign to get a job. If you’re willing to throw mud, if you’re willing to cause harm, if you’re willing to disseminate misinformation, if you do that kind of thing trying to get the job, that’s likely the kind of job you’re going to do when you get it.

To set the record straight, I don’t know Bauer and haven’t been following his or Brown’s campaign. Bauer did not approach me about the 2015 article in question. I saw it and was disgusted not only by Brown’s husband’s wanton use of a derogatory slur but by Brown’s cavalier dismissal of it as not being racist. Instead, she blamed her husband’s upbringing, arguing it’s hard to unlearn those behaviors.

Indeed, Bauer then felt it prudent to defend himself, even though he was not directly named.

“Attempts made at the close of the Gulfport City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 2nd to call this a less than honorable political issue rather than a moral one serve to underscore the challenge those fighting racism are battling,” Bauer’s campaign wrote in a statement.

“While we want to make clear Mike Bauer is not the individual discussed by name at the City Council meeting and did not partake in any negative campaigning, as he agrees negative campaigning does not reflect well on anyone involved in community service, for public officials to use their official city platform to make accusations against one individual and try to equate electoral politics with centuries of racism in America without condemning in the strongest possible terms the underlying issue reflects poorly both on the individual and the entire Council.”

The easiest thing to do would have been to ignore Henderson’s late-meeting rant. But Bauer’s campaign is correct.

Henderson rightly pointed out the comments Brown’s husband made were years old. But does that make it any less relevant? Has he suddenly realized how hurtful using the n-word is to an entire community of people who have suffered centuries of oppression and face ongoing racism? If he has, Brown didn’t bother to say so.

Nor did she take the opportunity to atone for her own comment.

“You’re not a racist, honey,” she told her husband at the time, according to CL. “You were raised when it was acceptable. It’s just hard for you to shed the feelings of the past.”

As I wrote yesterday in the column that kicked this all off, explaining away racism because unlearning bad behavior is hard is ridiculous.

Instead of responding to that, what transpired was a small-town Mayor who had an opportunity to condemn hate speech, but chose not to.

Saying nothing would have been better than what Henderson did say. His comments showed a blatant disregard for the casual racism that still plagues Black communities and other communities of color.

So for you, Mayor Henderson, I offer a revised statement, one that is culturally appropriate and that does not use your dais for politicking on behalf of a colleague.

“It was brought to my attention that a member of this body’s spouse formerly utilized a racial slur in an interview with media. I want the residents of Gulfport to know that this language has no place in our town or anywhere. I condemn his words in the strongest possible way and call on Christine Brown and her husband to publicly apologize.”

There, fixed it for you.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


7 comments

  • Rob Fowler

    February 3, 2021 at 10:47 pm

    “Instead she blamed her husband’s upbringing, arguing it’s hard to unlearn those behaviors.”

    You obviously missed the point of Cathy’s article. Christine was not defending racism, she was making a point that we all know. DUH!

    Even 6 years ago before George Floyd the article Cathy wrote was meant for us to reflect and think about how we all think as communities. Christine and her husband were very courageous allowing their life to be shared. Yes, racism exists in America. But this year especially it has become a topic that many have not ever thought about. It is very important for every single person in our country to examine and re-evaluate.

    I remember when that article came out, knowing Christine and Louis. It was shocking, and I knew they would pay consequences which they did. But I also know them and there is no hateful bone in their body. Louis grew up in Gulfport when the town was a racist town. That was how he grew up. That’s not an excuse for inappropriate language, of course, but that is the reality of how he lived for decades in our town. The bravery of Louis to be interviewed knowing what he was saying would cause pain to himself, his family, and many readers was not a racist act. It was about honesty and being truthful for Cathy’s article. It’s purpose was to open eyes, begin a dialog about racism. It was not a celebration about racism, but an honest look at how and why it exists.

    Maybe you are too shallow to get past a word and understand meaning?

    Oh yea, six years or so later now there is an election and time to dig up some dirt. Well, whoever is running against Christine has no room in our City Council if ancient mud slinging is their way even if they don’t admit it. Sorry Bauer, you don’t fit into my vision of Gulfport’s future. No cowards allowed, only brave who are not afraid to live and learn from the past.

  • Sonja Fitch

    February 4, 2021 at 8:30 am

    Kick the damn racist asses!

  • DisplacedCTYankee

    February 4, 2021 at 10:14 am

    This story does not mention the political party of any of the players. Let me make a wild guess — all the racists are Republicans.

  • James Robert Miles

    February 4, 2021 at 10:31 am

    You would be right. Just look at this Greene woman. Anti-Semite much? Don’t forget Trump, the ultimate racist leading a whole group of racists in his party who apparently condone racism!

  • Margarete Tober

    February 4, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    The sad thing is that the mayor was to talk about a proclamation for Black History Month and instead just to go into a political rage instead.

  • Jere Lepley

    February 6, 2021 at 6:17 am

    Paula Deen and others have lost parts of their careers for using racial slurs in the past because using those words have no place in a civilized society. Defending someone who does makes you tone deaf to the struggle against racism in this country. Period!

  • Rob Fowler

    February 6, 2021 at 7:02 am

    Six years ago when the article was published it hit Gulfport like a wildfire. There were immediate serious consequences for Christine’s husband, Christine, and their entire family. It was a big slap in their face and the entire town was forced to take a long deep look at itself, not just the few remaining old-timers who have been around since the early 1900’s. Gulfport became a much better place for everybody after the dust settled. In fact this little town was already moving towards greater racial awareness and compassion years before George Floyd was murdered. For a lot of the country it wasn’t until George Floyd that many people even thought about racism and their own beliefs and actions. But Gulfport was ahead of the rest of the country on many levels.

    Racism due to ignorance is much easier to overcome, and people/communities can and do change once aware of the truth. Racism due to hate is a much more serious and difficult problem to overcome. In my opinion, Gulfport was ignorant for way to long and is overcoming that disease, but I do know there is very little hate in this town. Gulfport is a beautiful welcoming community for everybody.

    That shocking article six years put Gulfport on the fast track to becoming a better town. You better believe Christine and her husband have become better people as well. Everyone who remembers the article and all the intense dialog we had in this small community knows.

    What is upsetting for some locals now, possibly including our Mayor who is very progressive, is that someone from outside our community appears to have dug this up a month before the election for their own purposes and dirty politics. If they were here, they’d realize how much things have changed in Gulfport.

    Just sayin’

Comments are closed.


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