I'm not really sure how to wrap my mind around a comment Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's Press Secretary made earlier this week on Twitter.
After news broke that Mayor Turner and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo will be hosting an event titled "The State of Black Houston", a lot of local voters who reject identity politics had questions.
Why are local elected officials hosting events exclusively for black people? Is there more than one Houston? What are the geographical boundaries of Black Houston compared to the rest of Houston? Is there a map available on the city website of "Black Houston"?
Mary Benton, Mayor Turner's press secretary, took to Twitter to promote the event to her 8,870 followers. Not surprisingly, the people who follow her on Twitter were just as confused about the nature of the event as the rest of us.
One Twitter user asked Mary, "When is the state of white Houston?"
As a user of the Twitter platform, Mary had a choice: she could ignore the rhetorical question and go on with her day, or she could reply to the Tweet with an emotion-filled attack on local first-responders.
I believe all are welcome. But there’s nothing wrong with organizing the event that want to attend and fits your ideology. Maybe the fire union, Ken Webster and Michael Berry will organize. Steve Bannon is still out of the country, I think. But do it. I’ll tweet it!
Ideology? Huh? Does Mary think "White" is a political movement?
There's a lot of cringe in this Tweet and when I first read her post I had some mixed emotions.
First I thought, "Hey, how about that? The Mayor's press secretary mentioned me by name."
Then I thought, "Is she insinuating that talk radio personality Michael Berry and I are right-wing populists like Steve Bannon?"
And then there was the obvious question - "Is Mary also suggesting all firefighters are right-wing Caucasians?"
Folks, it's 2019 - we all know what a "State of White People" event would entail: to put it bluntly, that sounds like a not-so clever way of saying "white pride rally". Feel free to disagree with me, but there are very few "white community" events that don't involve blatant racists gathering together wearing sheets while they burn crosses. In this context, the sentiment behind Mary's comment was pretty obvious. She's not even trying to be subtle.
And why is she mentioning Steve Bannon?
The "State of Black Houston" event organizers describe the event as follows: "City and County government will answer the question 'What are we doing for the Black Community"' and address the following topics...".
But there is no "white community" in Houston. "White Houston" isn't a thing. There's only Houston and not-Houston.
If someone organized an event to answer the question, "What are we doing for the white community?" - the name of the person who organized that event would probably be David Duke or Richard Spencer.
Considering these new revelations about Mayor Turner's press secretary drawing vague lines between the firefighters and white nationalism, it's safe to say the man hasn't had much luck finding competent people to fill that role in his administration. Last summer the Mayor's previous press secretary, Darian Ward, was indicted for withholding public records after a controversy involving her pitching reality TV show ideas when she was supposed to be clocked in as a city employee drew headlines.
If the purpose of the press secretary is to help create positive news coverage of the mayor's administration, maybe Sylvester should consider eliminating the position from his office?