A white candidate for sheriff in South Carolina revealed a photo of himself wearing blackface at a law enforcement Halloween party in an effort to beat his opponents to the punch.
But as one Facebook user pointed out, Craig Stivender, a longtime law enforcement officer, failed to actually apologize for the photo or condemn it as racist. He instead explained how he meant it to paint someone in a negative light.
In the photo, Stivender, who later rose through the ranks of the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office before taking jobs in the fire and police departments in nearby Walterboro, South Carolina, was shown dressed supposedly as Black Mafia Family kingpin Big Meech Flenory.
Stivender was wearing a gold chain and hugging a Black woman.
He unveiled the photo in video posted Tuesday on his “Stivender for Sheriff” Facebook campaign page.
“It’s important we have a sheriff whom we can trust, and that starts with being open and honest with you, the voters,” he said in the video.
“I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m not perfect. I’ve made mistakes, and I wish I could change a thing or two,” he added. “But that’s part of life: learning, growing, moving forward and becoming a better person.”
The sheriff hopeful listed the blackface photo along with a list of other negative decisions he’s made over the years.
“That’s why I want to tell you at the start of my campaign somethings that politicians would try to hide,” Stivender said, “things my opponents may try to use to tarnish my integrity.”
He said he received a ticket for driving without a driver’s license when he was 16 years old. He got a divorce and was remarried, and he was reprimanded at work when he lost his temper.
“I’ve been in fender benders that were my fault,” Stivender said. “And about 10 years ago as a young police officer, I attended a law-enforcement Halloween party dressed as ruthless drug kingpin Big Meech Flenory.”
The sheriff candidate said he did it to “disparage a criminal whose actions hurt our community and country.”
“That was a different time,” he said. “Today we understand that type of costume is troubling to many. To those that may be upset, I understand your disappointment.”
In South Carolina, both The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina and the University of South Carolina recently have apologized for photos that featured white people in blackface in old yearbooks, according to WCIV.
Stivender said he revealed his photo because he values honesty.
“So I’m opening my campaign with transparency,” he said.
The longtime law enforcement worker received mostly praise for his disclosure on Facebook.
“You have my support! Praying you win,” Lori Cone Stanton said Tuesday on Facebook.
“Got my vote! I wish he’d run for the House of Representatives,” Richard Bounds said Tuesday.
Facebook user McKenzi Norris, however, critiqued Stivender’s video Wednesday for failing to acknowledge blackface as racist.
“While I appreciate the transparency, I would like your comment on a few important notes I found troubling: (1) You acknowledged you wore blackface and never acknowledged that, even if it wasn’t directly your intention, it was a racist display,” Norris said.
“You also didn’t apologize and instead claimed that, somehow, wearing blackface ‘disparages’ him,” Norris added.