Florida Democrat John Parker has resigned from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) following a January reference to African-Americans as “colored people.”
The resignation followed intense pressure from activists and party officials – including Parker’s own wife.
“Jim Crow terminology” overheard at the Burrito Gallery
Fellow Democrat and Jacksonville City Council candidate Diallo-Sekou Seabrooks made some startling claims on local television channel First Coast News on Monday. He claimed to have overheard John Parker use offensive language at a local Jacksonville restaurant, the Burrito Gallery, following a January Democratic Party meeting.
“Why would you still think that ‘colored’ was cool? Because to me it’s a Jim Crow terminology and it’s unacceptable,” he told reporters.
Seabrooks continued, “I’m old enough to understand when people use context and frame that they are using it in and there was no joking in it. Structural racism is as normal as the absence of a black agenda inside of the Democratic Party which is 55 percent black.”
According to coverage of the story in POLITICO, Parker claims that he merely mangled the culturally acceptable term “people of color.” But according to Seabrooks, Parker “freely used” the term and was also expressing concern that Jacksonville could someday become a majority-black city as Atlanta did in the 1970s.
Also according to Seabrooks, Parker addressed his remarks to his wife Lisa King, who serves as the Duval County Democratic Party chairman.
In a statement Seabrooks said, “Both [King and Parker] share the guilt and are complicit.”
Wife throws John Parker under the bus
For two months, party insiders aware of the allegation assumed that Parker had gotten away with his offensive remarks. Some alleged he was receiving favourable treatment because of his marriage to the local party chairman.
In mid-March Florida Representative Kim Daniels wrote to black leaders in the Florida Democrats saying, “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.”
Earlier this week, Daniels publicly called for both Parker and King to resign. This prompted King to dramatically undermine Parker in a statement to First Coast News. She now claims that she has been arguing for him to resign since the incident occurred:
“John and I have been married for 23 years. I have never before heard him refer to African-Americans as anything other than black or African-American. When we returned home I told him that his choice of words and statements offended people. When I spoke to others present they confirmed their concern and offense…
“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.”
Bowing to the inevitable
Parker finally did resign yesterday morning, addressing a lettter to Tom Perez of the DNC, Terrie Rizzo of the Florida Democrats, and his wife in her role as head of the Duval County Democrats. He announced his simultaneous resignation from all three levels of the party.
“The past several weeks have been a challenging time as mistakes and a misstatement I made, and apologized for, have been misunderstood and give the impression I am something I am not…
“I am confident that a full investigation would have shown that I erred with my mouth, not my heart. I am not what some are portraying me to be, and although I would have preferred the opportunity for due process, I have decided it is best to put our party and overarching goals ahead of this.”
But Parker’s claim that his use of the term “colored people” was a simple error, and an aberration, was undermined by Rep Kim Daniels earlier this week. She claimed it was one instance among many where Parker has used racist-toned language.
“Preceding this instance,” she wrote, “he allegedly referred to the Working People Caucus as the ‘Poor Black People Working Caucus’ and called a constituent the ‘mayor’s mammy.'”
Daniels still wants King to resign as well. It appears that, for now, John Parker’s resignation may have been enough. But with a hard-fought gubernatorial race just a few months away, and black members becoming increasingly central to the prospects of Florida Democrats, it may not take much in the way of new developments to push King out as well.