A Georgia city commission is facing backlash after it allowed a white former commissioner to use the n-word several times at a local meeting, but silenced a Black commissioner who attempted to speak out against it.
Former commissioner Larry Johnson approached the podium at a Griffin City Commission meeting on March 28 to weigh in on a proclamation to name April Confederate History Month in the city, local station 11 Alive reported. All was well and good until Johnson began directing his comments at District 6 Commissioner Rodney McCord, who is African-American.
Johnson brought up a previous instance where McCord allegedly refused to stand for the American flag. So in response, he wore a Confederate belt buckle. The older man then recalled a conversation he had with McCord while the two were serving on the board together.
“I told you at that time that there were white folks and there were Black folks when I was growing up,” Johnson said. “There was white trash, my family, and there was n*****town and I lived next to n*****town.”
McCord reacted immediately, asking, “you grew up in what town?”
“N*****town, son, I’m telling you,” Johnson repeated. “Now, I’ve changed. I’m no longer called white trash and they’re no longer called that.”
Clearly frustrated, McCord objected to his former colleague’s offensive language but was shushed by chairman Douglas Hollberg, who ordered him to let Johnson finish his point.
Moments later, McCall again tried to speak out against Johnson’s use of the racial slur. Hollberg tried to silence him — yet again.
“I’m not going to sit here and let this man use that time of language,” McCord said. “And, if nobody else is offended, then I am.”
“Now, if y’all want to clap and think that that’s OK for this gentleman to stand in 2018 and get here at the board of city commission meeting — 2018 — the Civil War is over and he is using the n-word not once, not twice — three times,” he added. “And he just continues to say it without worrying about who it offends.”
Johnson later apologized for his comments and insisted he no longer used the racial slur. He was allowed to continue speaking at the podium until Mallory sent him away for going over his allotted time, according to 11 Alive. As he returned to his seat, the ex-commissioner made dubious claims that the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery.
“My skin is white, my neck is red and I was born in a Southern bed,” Johnson said. “Nothing wrong with that, I hope that doesn’t offend anybody.”
The tense exchange over the n-word was actually the second time Mccord was shushed during the meeting, the news station reported. He was previously silenced by the chairman after asking for a vote on the Confederate History Month proclamation. He was then barred from speaking on the matter until the floor was opened up to residents.
Mccord, who was elected to the board in 1994, said something like this has never happened to him before.
“Overall, just being offended to hear someone speak that way at a public meeting, in a public place,” he told 11Alive. “For him to use that word, to think that it was okay. It wasn’t a slip. It seemed malicious because he said it three times.”