Sharon McPhail, the Detroit City Council member who is running for mayor, participated in a so-called Sambo awards ceremony last month that used the racial epithet to mock her opponent, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and other black leaders.
According to a spokesman, McPhail read a list of nominees at a Feb. 24 dinner sponsored by the Call ‘Em Out Coalition, which also gave Sambo Sell-Out Awards to Detroit businessman Dave Bing, schools Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Burnley and council member Lonnie Bates.
The Sambo Sell-Out of the Year Award went to Kilpatrick. The homemade trophy features Barbie-size dolls and a miniature SUV reminiscent of a red Lincoln Navigator—to illustrate various Kilpatrick administration scandals involving the leasing of the controversial vehicle and never-proved allegations of dalliances with strippers.
McPhail’s participation riled some of her colleagues on the City Council, and injected race into an election in which McPhail, the other major candidates and the sitting mayor are all black, and African Americans constitute 82 percent of the city population. It also echoed scenes from her failed 1993 mayoral run, when McPhail sought to portray Dennis Archer as a pawn of white suburbanites.
Bates was lampooned at the ceremony by host Tatum Eason, a radio talk-show host. Eason was quoted in the Michigan Citizen as saying that Bates won third-place in the Sambo awards for “his starring role in ‘I Talk Black But I Vote White.’”