— Governor Matt Bevin (@GovMattBevin) July 10, 2018
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin is under fire for what some have called “tone deaf” comments he made during a recent visit to Louisville’s predominately Black West End.
In a promotional video uploaded to Twitter on Tuesday, Bevin took a tour of independent private school Nativity Academy where he met with members of the West Louisville Chess Club. The group often plays in locations across the city, the Courier-Journal reported.
“I’m going to go in and meet the members of the West Louisville Chess Club,” Bevin says in the intro, insisting it’s ” … not something you necessarily would have thought of when you think of this section of town.”
The one-minute clip shows the governor take a moment to play with the kids and praise faculty members for their work in putting together the program.
“Some incredible young minds, some incredible teachers [and] people pouring into these young people,” he adds. ” … Give them the chance to succeed, to achieve the American dream. That intrigues me.”
The video drew immediate backlash from critics who found his suggestion that African-American kids, particularly those from the inner city, don’t play chess offensive.
Local Councilman David James, who was present during the promo’s filming, said Bevin’s remark was an indication of his failing relationship with Louisville’s Black community. He accused the governor of stopping by the school just for a photo opportunity.
“It was just an obvious move by the governor to take photos with the African-American community,” James told the Courier Journal. “To perpetuate a stereotype of the African-American community like that is unbelievable.”
Bevin also faced criticism from other community members who considered his comments as racist and demeaning to Black people.
“Bevin, Blacks in West Louisville enjoy chess, tennis, and many other activities not associated with guns and violence,” Donovan Taylor, the secretary for the Chickasaw Neighborhood Association wrote on Facebook. “To think less of west Louisville shows your thinking of the residents of the area.”
“It’s laughable to have such a small view of West Louisville,” Taylor added. “It’s definitely offensive. If it’s not racist, it’s classist. It’s disturbing.”
Local sports radio host Matt Jones, who often discusses politics on his show, called the remarks “tone deaf.”
Several others chimed in on social media to condemn the governor’s comments.
Folks. That Matt Bevin chess club west end video. I can’t even. Ignorance at a massive scale.
— Alex Porter (@AlexPorter82) July 11, 2018
When Matt Bevin sees black people playing chess pic.twitter.com/L1R2sQ5efE
— Charles J. Moore (@charles270) July 11, 2018
I guess it’s a surprise to him that young blacks know how to play chess… I wonder what Matt Bevin would think of me… a young black woman who teaches Robotics at an upper East End high school https://t.co/KasnMp5403
— Angelica (@_angelicakae) July 11, 2018
I see Matt Bevin was out here being shady, as usual. Black kids in the West End couldn't possibly know how to play chess. pic.twitter.com/8nbUXbWbYV
— Black Nancy Drew. (@brittersb43) July 11, 2018
How is there not ONE person on Matt Bevin’s staff who saw this EDITED VIDEO and didn’t think, “you know maybe we shouldn’t let this statement go out”
Either they were too scared or too clueless…either way that’s a problem https://t.co/IQu6F39cG3
— Matt Jones (@MattJonesRadio) July 11, 2018
A spokeswoman for the governor released the following statement amid the outcry:
“Governor Bevin met with the West Louisville Chess Club to showcase an important program that is encouraging sportsmanship and character building among Kentucky’s youth,” Bevin’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Kuhn said in a statement. “It is disappointing that some are trying to shift the focus away from the incredible accomplishments of these talented kids.”