Black woman ‘shocked’ after white North Carolina city official is fired for disrespecting her

Black woman ‘shocked’ after white North Carolina city official is fired for disrespecting her

Trust me: After the week this Black woman has had, I’m as surprised by the headline as anyone. Not that a mediocre white man disrespected a Black woman with palpable animosity; that’s every day for us. No, I’m shocked that there were any consequences for this guy being such a jerk, much less such significant ones. 

While Black men are the people white folks claim to fear the most so they can shoot them without consequence, Black women are to many, if not most white people, only here to be of service. We’re not here to be treated with dignity, we’re here to give their aging, racist fathers a sponge bath while earning pennies over minimum wage. We’re mammies and maids, cooks and caregivers. We’re welfare queens and whores, until election time, when we’re the workhorses white Democrats swear they couldn’t do without.

Racist perceptions may fuel those racist stereotypes, but we all know that perception is not reality. And as Greensboro, North Carolina’s newest ex-government official Tony Collins just learned, Black women also get doctorates.

It all started with a four-hour slog of a zoning commission meeting, held virtually and televised on Monday. Less than a dozen items were on the agenda, but one concerned the impact of a development “a few hundred feet” from the home of Carrie Rosario, an associate professor at UNC-Greensboro who holds a doctorate in public health. After Dr. Rosario shared her thoughts as a concerned citizen, then-Commissioner Collins, who holds a bachelor’s degree and is a partner in a construction company named Collins & Galyon General Contractors, decided it was his time to shine … like a racist fake diamond.

As transcribed by Greensboro’s News & Record:

In the video, Collins is seen questioning Rosario about the relevance of her comments and referring to her as “Mrs. Rosario.”

“It’s Dr. Rosario, thank you,” she said.

“If Mrs. Rosario has something …” Collins said.

“Dr. Rosario,” she replied.

“I’m sorry,” Collins said. “Your name says on here Carrie Rosario. Hey, Carrie.”

“It’s Dr. Rosario,” she said. “I (wouldn’t) call you Tony, so please, sir, call me as I would like to be called. That’s how I’m identified.”

“It doesn’t really matter,” Collins said.

“It matters to me,” Rosario said. “Out of respect I would like you to call me by the name I’m asking you to call me by.”

“Your screen says Carrie Rosario,” Collins said.

“My name is Dr. Carrie Rosario and it really speaks very negatively of you as a commissioner to be disrespectful,” she said.

“I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but you’re negotiating something that happened four years ago,” Collins said.

Let’s roll the tape. Note that Collins not only rejects her title and uses her first name, but despite multiple corrections, he also refuses to pronounce Dr. Rosario’s surname correctly. He also leans on what’s on the screen—twice—but “Mrs.” is nowhere to be found.

The Greensboro City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to remove Tony Collins from the Zoning Commission following a tense exchange during a commission meeting that involved Dr. Carrie Rosario, an associate professor at UNC-Greensboro. The blatant disrespect 😤 pic.twitter.com/Y9ZakjhMsj

— Natasha ⚯͛ (@ndelriego) April 23, 2021

As a preemptive strike against anyone who feels compelled to frame this as a mere mistake with double down sauce, The Charlotte Observer reports that, earlier in the meeting, another commissioner responded quite differently when he received a similar correction. 

Before her exchange with Collins, Rosario corrected another commissioner regarding her title and he apologized, saying, “I really don’t want to offend you in that regard, so, Dr. Rosario, I do apologize for that.”

Given that Collins witnessed the earlier interaction, Rosario said she interpreted his refusal to acknowledge her request as “a personal attack of disrespect.”

“I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt at first and corrected him, but as the exchange unfolded it was clear that he was intent on disrespecting me,” she said.

Multiple people in the meeting apologized to Dr. Rosario immediately. Collins was not one of them.

Council members convened on Tuesday; though the video isn’t embeddable here, I encourage you to go watch the full five-minute clip provided by the News & Record. Councilwoman Sharon Hightower, a Black woman, replayed the incident from the day before. She named the four people who apologized to Dr. Rosario before noting that “I get this regularly, from other folk. I know how this feels.” Hightower also named the racism and white privilege on display in the moment, and added that the council did not appoint Collins to act like this, before stating that the incident was an example of “history repeating itself.” 

Next, Councilwoman Goldie Wells, another Black woman with her own doctorate, spoke next, reminding the room that Black women can get multiple degrees, while white women with high school diplomas still enjoy more advantages. She spoke to how much education means to African Americans in general, particularly the journey to a Ph.D.:“That means something. Now this, just was some’ bad manners. We know that if somebody pronounces name differently from what you want to be called, they quickly change (the pronunciation).” Dr. Wells then gave examples of previous oustings of appointees before making the case for ousting Collins. 

Discussion continued for about a half hour, with Councilwoman Nancy Hoffmann, a white woman, offering to have a talk with Collins. The council then voted unanimously to send the weirdo and his racist nonsense packing. 

On Wednesday—two days after the incident and one day after he got the boot—Collins decided to apologize, and left a penitent voicemail for Dr. Rosario, who responded with “a gracious message.” 

“I am so appreciative of her reaching back to me after I called her,” Collins told the News & Record on Friday. “She didn’t have to and she did.”

No, she didn’t have to. But she did.

Collins conceded that he behaved badly, but was adamant that his vile behavior had nothing whatsoever to do with race or gender, because “anyone who deals with him” knows that he treats everyone the same! 

“I’m not saying that to make an excuse. It wouldn’t matter who it is. It was disrespectful.”

And though he said he isn’t looking to justify his behavior, Collins does think he has learned from the experience.

“I live and work in a world of construction,” he said. “We fight and tussle all day long and then we’re friends at the end of the day.

“It’s a little bit in my nature and I hate to say that. I didn’t think. I really had no intent of disrespecting, but I certainly did.”

It’s an interesting defense to claim that you’re an equal opportunity asshole.

On Thursday, Collins sent an email to each member of the council.

Good Morning Members of the Greensboro City Council,

I understand from published reports that you voted Tuesday evening to remove me from the Greensboro Zoning Commission because of my behavior at the Zoning Commission meeting Monday evening. I agree with you that my exchange with Dr. Rosario was out of line and accept your judgment to remove me from the commission. I have telephoned Dr. Rosario and left a message apologizing for my behavior.

I would also like to publicly apologize to Dr. Rosario, the Zoning Commission and to the City Council. There is no good excuse for my interaction with Dr. Rosario so I will not try to offer one. Citizens deserve better. I would never want to bring any harm to the City of Greensboro or to any of our citizens. I failed to live up to my own standards and to yours. I regret that sincerely.

I have appreciated the opportunity to serve Greensboro on the Zoning Commission and wish the other members of the Commission well and thank them for their service.

Thanks,

Tony Collins

Collins claims he sent the email, which doesn’t acknowledge the racial dynamics at play, on Wednesday but it didn’t go through.

Dr. Rosario, being a Black woman, admitted she was “shocked” that a the council voted to kick Collins to the curb. She held it up as an example of the importance of having diverse elected representation—three of the nine council members are women of color. The outcome is also indicates that in Greensboro, Black women fight for each other.

“Black women, regardless of level of education, are consistently dismissed and overlooked or judged in our society.”

She went on to say systemic racism is what “made me even feel like I had to use my title in the first place” and also what compelled her to come well-prepared for her presentation “so as not to appear to be the stereotyped ‘angry Black woman.’”

“I cannot judge what is in Mr. Collins’ heart, nor would I presume to, but I will say that racism as a system devalues and dismisses Black women — and Mr. Collins’ actions were evidence of the microaggressions that we face on a regular basis just trying to go about our daily lives,” Rosario said.

A horrible Wall Street Journal op-ed isn’t so far behind us—you know the one, where Joseph Epstein orders  the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, to drop the Doc because it “feels fraudulent, even comic.” In a great interview with The Washington Post’s lady vertical, The Lily, Dr. Rosario pays tribute to her late mother, a powerful Black woman named Janet Kennedy; she also further discusses the importance of her title. 

Rosario, 38, sees her title as an essential tool. As a Black woman who says she looks young for her age, people are predisposed to dismiss her opinion and expertise, she said. “It adds legitimacy to what I’m saying,” Rosario said, especially when she’s discussing a matter relevant to public health, as she was on Monday night.

[…]

Women of color “face lots of judgments on their value and what they are capable of doing,” Rosario said. After they achieve something big, she said, the question becomes, “Did they actually do it? Is it legitimate?” As a Black woman, Rosario said, these kinds of comments can wear on your health. Sometimes she wonders why people can’t just celebrate her success. To Rosario, the “Dr.” title is a celebration of her accomplishments — and the people who helped her achieve them.

Dr. Rosario is certain that her mom, who died in February, would have celebrated her viral moment, with tweets shouting “It’s Dr. Rosario!” galore. Because, as The Lily’s Carole Kirchener notes, “Collins told Rosario that her title ‘didn’t matter.’ It mattered to Rosario … and it would have mattered to her mom.”

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