Cloves Campbell Jr.'s Calling a Black Phoenix Council Candidate a "House Negro" Draws Mixed Reaction

Cloves Campbell, publisher of the Arizona Informant, shocked a good deal of people when he labeled Pastor Warren Stewart's opponent, Lawrence Robinson, a "house Negro" in a May 22 editorial.

On the Informant's Facebook page, the editorial is labeled as "provocative."

Most seem to call it offensive.

Councilman Michael Johnson, who currently represents District 8, has told the Arizona Republic that he isn't bothered by Campbell's assessment of a fellow African American.

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

Johnson's tenure is set to expire, and he is barred by term limits from running again to continue representing a predominately Latino district that has been represented for decades by an African American.

Stewart, senior pastor at First Institutional Baptist Church, Robinson, an attorney and member of the Roosevelt School Board, Carolyn T. Lowery, a community activist, and Kate Widland Gallego, a strategic planner who worked for SRP, are all vying for the seat to represent District 8.

Stewart, who pledged his campaign would be a mud-free zone, has not responded to New Times repeated requests for comment on Campbell's assessment of his opponent.

He may not have anything to say, but state Representative Catherine Miranda and former State Representative Ben Miranda do.

The couple, residents of District 8, say that Campbell's comments are only perpetuating a racial divide in the community.

And they urge Councilman Johnson to "put his friendship with Cloves [Campbell] aside and not embrace his racially charged editorial."

The Mirandas write in a column e-mailed to New Times that Stewart may be qualified for the office, but they are endorsing Robinson because they "need for a new generation of leadership" who "will continue to work for change, cultural competency and racial harmony."

Commenting on the Informant's website, Eric Sullivan calls the editorial "a breath of fresh air" and writes Campbell "put the reality of a conscious brotha in simple black-n-white."

He's only one of two commenters (out of a dozen) who praised Campbell.

Others had less pleasant remarks, including:

Chris: "It is unfortunate rhetoric like this that has been keeping us down. It is one of the reasons we cannot rise up and have a seat at the table."

J. Johnson: I am shocked, saddened, and disgusted . . . You owe Mr. Robinson a letter of apology, Mr. Campbell. This editorial demeans you, and casts a pall on your service to this state, your legacy, and and your future prospects in politics. Pastor Stewart would do well to distance himself from you.

John S.: Is this supposed to be an example of black leadership? More directly, is your use of black identity as a shield for jealousy setting the right example for young men and women today? Surely a black man as accomplished as yourself cannot believe that an attack in the style of "blacker than thou" -- one that does not even mention the name of its target -- can do anything positive for the community.

Yet immaturity is not the greatest of your mistakes in this piece. It is a stunning disservice to all young people of color to suggest that their inclusion in white or other circles is either a betrayal of their identity or some cruel illusion of inclusion.

Victoria Washington: This is what passes for political discourse? Name calling? Divide and conquer indeed.

Christian Johnson: This is a shameful and disrespectful article. Instead of bringing unity to our community, this brings greater division.

Andrea Bradshaw: Your "opinion" makes you sound like a racist idiot, Mr. Campbell. And you didn't even have the GUTS to identify this so called "house negro" by name. The "Man" sure doesn't have to work very hard to tear us down. Not when brothers like yourself jump in to pick up the slack.

Read the full Miranda column below:

On May 22, the Arizona Informant editorial by Cloves Campbell injected race into the District 8 City Council race in the most direct manner we have ever seen in our community. While some may say it's not our place to comment on the editorial because the focus is two African-American city council candidates, we disagree. We sense an obligation to respond simply because our next city council representative must speak for all of us.

Cloves Campbell's comments may satisfy his need to publicly state who is the ideal candidate to represent the African-American community but they come with a price that will be paid by all of us who want to move beyond race.

We have lived in South Phoenix for almost 50 years and we have both served in the state legislature, including serving with Cloves. He has always been guarded with his words.

Yet on this occasion, the impact of his comments go beyond the African-American community and result in continued division along racial lines. Open dialogue about race is important, but it should be tempered by the need to educate and close the gap on racial divide.

The demographics of District of 8 have changed dramatically particularly in the past decade and this will continue. As we experience these changes, we see a very limited window of opportunity to create a political atmosphere in the South Mountain community where the best elected official regardless of ethnicity can emerge with broad based support.

Currently, we are represented by City Councilman Michael Johnson and we recall that shortly after his first election, we urged him to diversify his staff with one bilingual person. He did so.

Now we ask that he put his friendship with Cloves aside and not embrace his racially charged editorial. Prior to endorsing Lawrence Robinson in March we considered all the announced candidates and had the opportunity to interview Pastor Warren Stewart. We found him qualified but chose Lawrence Robinson because of the need for a new generation of leadership.

We have not been disappointed in our choice and will continue to work for change, cultural competency and racial harmony.

Catherine H. Miranda Ben R. Miranda State Representative Former State Representative

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