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Cloves Campbell Jr.'s "House Negro" Comment Faces Criticism from Black Leaders

Black progressive community leaders in Phoenix are speaking out against a recent editorial written by Cloves Campbell Jr. in which he referred to one of the City Council District 8 candidates as a "house negro."

Campbell published the opinion piece in his newspaper, the Arizona Informant, on May 22. He doesn't identify the individual, but it's likely he's directing the epithet at Lawrence Robinson, one of the black candidates in the race.

In an open letter, several black leaders write that the views expressed in Campbell's Op-Ed piece are "disappointing to see in public discourse."

See also: Pastor Warren Stewart Supporter Cloves Campbell Calls Stewart's Political Opponent a "House Negro" Black Leaders in Phoenix Struggle to Retain Power in a District They've Historically Controlled

The open letter, dated June 6 and signed by Reginald Bolding, Devin Del Palacio, Zel Fowler, Tyre McKay, Tanya Norwood, Tia Oso, Channel Powe and Cymone Ragland, was blunt.

"The racialized derogatory language by a prominent Black professional and political figure is a prime example of what is missing in leadership in Arizona's Black Community," they wrote. "The language used in the Op-Ed is disrespectful, divisive and bigoted. This is truly disappointing to see in public discourse. True leadership is not backbiting, mudslinging and name calling. True leadership creates opportunities both vertically and laterally, and does not shut the door behind itself once one reaches a certain level of success."

We called the Arizona Informant to speak with Campbell, but he was not in the office. We left a message.

Stewart, who is supported by Campbell, hasn't made any public comments about Campbell's column.

"Stewart has never run for public office before, and his approach was not to get into the mud and talk publicly about these things and keep them going," said Scott Phelps, a campaign spokesman. "He wants to talk about other issues."

Phelps said when buttons with the words "Bigot Warren Stewart" written on them were passed around, Stewart also refrained from making comments and fanning those flames.

He added that Stewart did call Campbell privately and told him that he hoped everyone in all the campaigns could take a higher road and avoid the labeling and name-calling.

"We can always debate the wisdom of whether that the right thing to do -- to talk to him privately instead of making a public statement -- but that is the road we ended up on," Phelps said.

Read the letter in its entirety:

 

June 6, 2013

An open letter on Leadership from Black Progressive Leaders in Phoenix

On May 22, 2013 Cloves Campbell Jr, owner and publisher of the Arizona Informant posted an Op-Ed titled The "House Negro" Is Unfortunately Alive And Well on the Informant website. Mr. Campbell's piece characterizing an unnamed African-American leader running for office as a "house negro", as seen in the character Stephen, in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained; and maintains that he is unfit to represent Black people as an elected official.

What is leadership? What is true leadership? What is strong leadership? We asked these questions of Black progressive leaders in Phoenix after reading Mr. Campbell's piece and decided it was important to lift a unified voice to call for strong leadership that represents the Black community's issues and concerns with courage, strength and dignity.

Regardless of whom the Op-Ed is referring to, the racialized derogatory language by a prominent Black professional and political figure is a prime example of what is missing in leadership in Arizona's Black Community. The language used in the Op-Ed is disrespectful, divisive and bigoted. This is truly disappointing to see in public discourse. True leadership is not backbiting, mudslinging and name calling. True leadership creates opportunities both vertically and laterally, and does not shut the door behind itself once one reaches a certain level of success.

By relying on stereotypes and openly attacking another, unnamed, African-American leader, Mr. Campbell has made it clear that he has chosen to take the "crabs in a barrel" tactic by creating an arbitrary measuring stick for "blackness" and putting down those who do not fit his narrow definition. This insistence on placing all black leaders in restrictive box is ignorant and will stunt our growth as a community.

We take issue with the embarrassing rhetoric in Mr. Campbell's Op-Ed and the supportive comments by current D-8 Councilman Michael Johnson in the Arizona Republic article on May 23, Column appears to refer to Phoenix council candidate with a racial epithet. This is not a progressive attitude to take and it is not beneficial for our elected leaders to engage in divisive rhetoric. Infighting and tearing each other down is a distraction from the real issues facing our community as we prepare for transition in leadership. We call for Black leadership that is strong and inclusive that operates with honesty and integrity.

Signed,

Reginald Bolding - (2012 LD-27 State Representative Candidate) Devin Del Palacio Zel Fowler Tyre McKay Tanya Norwood Tia Oso Channel Powe Cymone Ragland


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