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Inexcusable intolerance

A Times Editorial
Published September 23, 2005

You least expect racism and intolerance from those who have historically suffered from racism and intolerance. Yet that is what happened in St. Petersburg Tuesday night at a town hall meeting.

Darden Rice, one of five candidates in the District 6 primary, held a campaign event at a Midtown community center. Rice, the only white candidate, spoke to an audience of about 40 people, most of them black. Rather than being thanked for seeking their views, Rice was subjected to an ugly verbal attack by some in attendance.

Theresa "Momma Tee" Lassiter, an outspoken activist, asked Rice if she is gay. Rice, who has been open about her sexual orientation, responded that she is. Lassiter then conspicuously left the meeting and later berated Rice for her answer.

The bigotry didn't end there. Members of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement launched a verbal attack on Rice based on her race. One person called her family "murderers," apparently referring to a shooting by deputies when her uncle, Everett Rice, was sheriff.

While this page has recommended incumbent Earnest Williams in the primary, Rice has proved to be a well-informed, sincere candidate. District 6 has traditionally had a black representative, and diversity on the council is important. But any suggestion that Rice couldn't serve a district where 54 percent of registered voters are black and 46 percent are white because of her race is demeaning to both black and white residents. Would those same critics say a black candidate couldn't serve a majority white district?

It is important to remember that the unfortunate behavior involved just a few individuals. Black residents should not allow a small group with selfish motives to speak for the whole community. St. Petersburg has come too far to be derailed by bigotry.

[Last modified September 23, 2005, 02:50:29]

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