Auburn City Councilor Leroy Walker isn’t the most articulate politician – unless somebody else is putting words in his mouth.
In early September, Walker made the ill-advised decision to open his pie hole at a council meeting dealing with renaming a pedestrian bridge across the Androscoggin River between Lewiston and Auburn. The proposed new name was in honor of John Jenkins, who served as mayor of both cities and as the first Black person elected to the Maine Senate.
In Walker’s muddled mind, the only word that got through was “Black.”
According to the Lewiston Sun Journal, he told his fellow councilors “dark-colored people” in “Alabama and them areas” had engaged in looting in the aftermath of a hurricane, thereby placing “a bad name on good people like John Jenkins.”
There’s no chance Jenkins was involved in those alleged crimes because he’d been dead for nearly a year. That alibi even works for Black people.
Nevertheless, Walker told the council the looting shown on TV “really made a black mark toward John Jenkins.” In a later interview with the newspaper, Walker admitted Jenkins’ connection to the looting was “only because of the color of his skin.”
Walker went on digging himself a deeper hole, telling councilors, “So I’ve had some calls that people are very upset that we’re trying to place ourself (sic) in a position that, uh, some of the words have been ‘be special to the Black people’ so that we don’t have to worry about the type of things that are going on in those areas.”
As previously mentioned, coherence isn’t Walker’s strong suit.
What’s clearer than anything the councilor could randomly spew out is that Walker didn’t have anything redeeming to say after his ridiculous rant attracted public attention. “I’m not prejudiced in any way,” he told the Sun Journal, adding the feeble claim that he had Black friends, including a “real close friend who is 100 percent Black and we get along great.”
For some reason, that excuse didn’t satisfy Walker’s critics, including the rest of the Auburn council, the Lewiston City Council and mayor, and numerous anti-racist organizations. It became apparent, he needed to say something else. But saying something hadn’t worked so well for Walker, mostly because it was tough to understand him with his foot lodged in his mouth.
Suddenly, however, there was a transformation. On Sept. 10, a couple days after displaying his ignorance in public, Walker issued a written apology. It was understandable. It was grammatical. It made sense. In other words, it didn’t read like anything Walker would actually say.
According to the reconstituted Walker’s newly “woke” outlook, he now grasped the idea that his comments “were insensitive and inappropriate.” He went on to say he’ll “use the days and weeks ahead to speak with and seek guidance from experts in diversity and communication in order to communicate for and to my constituents more effectively.” He promised to use the time ahead for “much reflection.”
Nothing says sincere like a ghost-written apology.
Walker said he’d resign from all the local boards and committees on which he serves, but made no mention of giving up his council seat. He’s running for another term and has no official opponent, although two write-in candidates have announced they’re running against him. Neither dared to say they were doing so because he’s a racist fool.
Walker could do more to mitigate that perception.
It’s obvious that after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, an event perpetrated almost exclusively by white people, that it’s no longer appropriate to name anything after anyone of the Caucasian persuasion. Walker needs to lead a petition drive to strip Percival Baxter’s name from Maine’s largest state park. The town of Kingfield is named for the state’s first governor, William King. That’s gotta go. Counties like Washington, Hancock, Franklin, and Lincoln demand revision, as does Cumberland (named for an English duke who slaughtered women and children), Knox (corrupt land speculator), and Waldo (slave trader).
And the town of Whitefield has to shut down completely until its racist backstory is completely, uh, whitewashed.
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