Activists Demand DNC Member’s Resignation After ‘Colored People’ Remark

Marc Caputo, Politico, April 4, 2018

A Florida Democratic National Committee member is resisting a chorus of resignation calls from African-American activists and party officials — including his own wife — after he referred to blacks as “colored people.”

DNC member John Parker, a Democratic state committee member from Duval County, told POLITICO he simply mangled the phrase “people of color” and that he didn’t mean to say “colored people” at a Jan. 22 party meeting at a Jacksonville restaurant.

He later apologized for his words, but not before igniting a divisive election-year controversy that distracts from what Democrats say should be a focus on President Donald Trump’s bigotry.

The problem, local activists say, is that Parker’s remark was not simply an errant remark. Diallo-Sekou Seabrooks, an African-American who said he heard the remarks at the Burrito Gallery restaurant after a Democratic meeting, told First Coast News that Parker “freely used” the phrase, “colored people,” at the event and that he was concerned that Jacksonville would become like Atlanta, a city with a majority-black government.

“Why would you still think that ‘colored’ was cool? Because to me, it’s a Jim Crow terminology and it’s unacceptable,” Seabrooks told the station.

Parker denied those and other claims that have become the subject of local and state Democratic Party complaints lodged against him — that he spoke pejoratively of the aftermath of integration that evening, and on other occasions called a woman the “mayor’s mammy” and allegedly referred to the local Working People Caucus as the “Poor Black People Working Caucus.”

“I misspoke and used the term colored people when I meant people of color,” Parker told POLITICO on Feb. 13, when first asked about his remark. But he said any other claims that he used racially insensitive remarks “did not happen.”

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{snip} Though Republicans have long carried Duval County, it has a sizable African-American population of about 30 percent. About 55 percent of the county’s registered Democrats are African-American. Without them, Democrats statewide would struggle to counterbalance big Republican margins across much of rural North Florida.

Now that GOP Gov. Rick Scott is likely next week to formally challenge U.S. Sen Bill Nelson, Democrats say they need a united front and an energetic base.

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As the complaints against Parker appeared to stall, word spread among African-American Democratic circles in Jacksonville that the controversy was being ignored because Parker’s wife, Lisa King, is the chairwoman of the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee.

“Because Mrs. King is the wife of John Parker, there may be a conflict of interest. Constituents are complaining that the case may have been swept under the rug,” state Rep. Kim Daniels, an African-American Democrat from Jacksonville, wrote March 14 to the Florida Black Democratic Party, which had fielded some of the initial complaints.

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At that point, Parker’s wife, King, publicly called on him to quit.

“Though it is painful and awkward to air this conflict publicly, I have told John from the beginning that the most appropriate course of action for him was to resign,” King told First Coast News in a written statement.

In the statement, King said she didn’t know how to handle a complaint filed against Parker because the local party “bylaws do not have a grievance process, our Central Committee will be meeting this Thursday to create one.”

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Rep. Daniels, though, said there’s no excuse.

“Mrs. King’s silence on the matter, until released in the media, demonstrated her complicity,” she said in a written statement to POLITICO.

Florida Democratic Party officials have refused to comment, citing confidentiality rules governing an active complaint. Privately, however, top state party officials have spent weeks trying to get Parker to resign.

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For some African-American Democrats and Republicans, Florida Democrats appear to have separate standards when Parker’s case is compared with a 2017 uproar in the Florida Senate, when party officials united in loudly calling for the resignation of Miami state Sen. Frank Artiles, a Republican, who used a slur in talking to two African-American colleagues. One of those colleagues was state Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville, who has vouched for Parker as someone who isn’t a racist.

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