Featuring white S.C. mayor’s school integration experience for Black History Month draws criticism
Greenville, South Carolina, earned eye-rolls for highlighting Mayor Knox White's high school desegregation as Black history.
A social media campaign intended to celebrate Black History Month in Greenville, South Carolina, is earning criticism for highlighting the city’s white mayor and his experiences attending integrated schools.
One of the now-deleted posts Tuesday reportedly showed a photo of Mayor Knox White, 68, as a teen, captioned with “#BlackHistoryMonth feature from @MayorKnoxWhite-a student at Greenville High School during the school’s integration in Feb. of 1970. Integration was ordered by the court in Jan. 1970. The district was given less than a month to design a plan to redraw attendance lines.” The posts went on in a nine-part thread, according to The Greenville News.
The blowback from people questioning why White was getting the focus under a Black history umbrella prompted the city to yank the posts from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter Tuesday night and issue their regrets for the messages, which were considered “offensive” and “insensitive.”
According to the mayor, his sentiments were culled by the city’s communications director, Beth Brotherton, from a video marking the 50th anniversary of school desegregation in which White participated.
“While well-intentioned, it was a poor decision,” Brotherton wrote in her apology. “I take full responsibility for not recognizing how insensitive it is to tell a story about a painful chapter in the lives of African Americans through the eyes of a white man.” She shared the apology on the City of Greenville Facebook page, where she pledged to “continue to listen.”
In response to the posts, one user wrote, “So the city of Greenville deleted this from their social media. Cowards. Their feature of Mayor Knox White for #BlackHistoryMonth and how he felt during integration. The man responsible for the erasure of entire Black communities in #yeahTHATgreenville. The facade is coming off.”
“Posted on City of Greenville’s Twitter page. I’m pretty certain Mayor Knox was not on the side of ending segregation and racism. Lamenting his friends ‘disappearance’ shows animus towards black children taking their place in HIS school. ‘Poor us, our lives were really affected,’” another replied.
Greenville is currently experiencing a swell of gentrification, and the Black population in the city has declined from 30% to almost 23% since 2010. Much of that shift has occurred during the 27 years White has been mayor.
“To me, it’s less of a communications flub and more of the status quo in this city,” area resident Courtney Thomas tweeted, per The Greenville News.
“There seems to be a disconnect between white leadership in Greenville and its Black residents,” Thomas contended. “The root of that is white supremacy, but more explicitly, Black folks are absent from decision-making in the city. Yes, we have several Black elected officials and I see their influence every day, but in an area and in a time when Black folks in the Upstate are being pushed out by gentrification and endangered by COVID-19, we need more.”
TheGrio is FREE on your TV via Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Roku and Android TV. Also, please download theGrio mobile apps today!