A North Carolina city has reportedly ousted a white official who refused a black resident’s request to be addressed by her doctoral title during a televised meeting.
Tony Collins, a member of the Greensboro Zoning Commission, was removed by the City Council this week after a tense exchange involving Carrie Rosario, an associate professor at UNC-Greensboro, the Charlotte Observer reported.
“It was a very disrespectful exchange between an important commissioner and a public citizen,” said City Councilwoman Sharon Hightower, who called for the vote to remove Collins, according to the news outlet.
“That should never happen,” she added.
The incident Monday occurred toward the end of a four-hour Zoning Commission meeting in which Rosario expressed concerns about a development project near her home.
During the exchange, Collins referred to her as “Mrs. Rosario,” the Observer reported.
“It’s Dr. Rosario, thank you, sir,” she replied.
“If Mrs. Rosario has something,” Collins continued.
“Dr. Rosario,” she said again.
“Well, you know, I’m sorry. Your name says on here ‘Carrie Rosario.’ Hey Carrie,” Collins persisted.
“It’s Dr. Rosario,” she said yet again. “I wouldn’t call you Tony, so please, sir, call me as I would like to be called.”
“It doesn’t really matter,” Collins replied.
“It matters to me. And out of respect, I would like you to call me by the name that I’m asking you to call me by,” Rosario said.
“Your screen says Carrie Rosario,” he responded.
“I’m verbalizing my name is Dr. Carrie Rosario,” she said. “And it really speaks very negatively of you as a commissioner to be disrespectful.”
Collins then insisted that he was not trying to disrespect her.
But Hightower later told her colleagues that Collins was using his “white privilege” by refusing Rosario’s request, according to The Greensboro News & Record.
“It is not going to be tolerated. As a black female, I am not going to see another black female treated in this manner,” Hightower told McClatchy News, according to the Observer.
Rosario said the council’s decision was a “welcomed surprise.”
“I do not believe his actions reflect the type of behavior the public needs or expects from its elected or appointed leaders,” she told McClatchy News, adding that several Zoning Commission members later apologized for the incident.
Collins also has reportedly apologized in a voicemail.
“I would love to say that people don’t operate off of appearances, but that has not been my experience,” Rosario said, the Observer reported. “Black women, regardless of level of education, are consistently dismissed and overlooked or judged in our society.”
“I cannot judge what is in Mr. Collins’ heart, nor would I presume to, but I will say that racism as a system devalues and dismisses black women — and Mr. Collins’ actions were evidence of the microaggressions that we face on a regular basis just trying to go about our daily lives,” she added.