In a repeated and blatant series of racist microaggressions, a white city council official in Greensboro, North Carolina has been fired for refusing to address the woman he was speaking with by her earned academic title of Doctor during a televised community meeting.
Yaron Steinbuch of the New York Post has reported that “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 local newspaper, the Charlotte Observer, summarized the pair’s heated and contentious conversation, which occurred near the end of a four-hour Zoning Commission meeting when Rosario attempted to address her concerns over a development project taking place near her home.
According to the Observer, the start of the heated exchange began when Collins referred to her as “Mrs. Rosario.”
“It’s Dr. Rosario, thank you, sir,” she corrected.
“If Mrs. Rosario has something,” Collins replied.
“Dr. Rosario,” she repeated.
“Well, you know, I’m sorry. Your name says on here ‘Carrie Rosario.’ Hey Carrie,” Collins added dismissively.
“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 snapped.
“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 replied.
“I’m verbalizing my name is Dr. Carrie Rosario,” she said again forcefully. “And it really speaks very negatively of you as a commissioner to be disrespectful.”
After the meeting, Collins tried to course-correct and insisted that he wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. However, City Councilwoman Sharon Hightower — who was also present for the meeting — said “It was a very disrespectful exchange between an important commissioner and a public citizen. That should never have happened.”
According to Steinbuch, “Hightower later told her colleagues that Collins was using his ‘white privilege’ by refusing Rosario’s request.”
“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 said. She then organized a vote to call for Collins’ removal from the city council. The vote passed and Collins has since been fired from his position.
Upon hearing about the decision and outcome, Rosario said it 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.
“I would love to say that people don’t operate off of appearances, but that has not been my experience,” Rosario added. “Black women, regardless of the level of education, are consistently dismissed and overlooked or judged in our society.”
The Observer reported that Rosario went on to say that systemic racism is what “made me even feel like I had to use my title in the first place” and also what compelled her to come well-prepared for her presentation “so as not to appear to be the stereotyped ‘angry Black woman.’”
“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,” Rosario said.
Collins has since reportedly left a voicemail with Rosario apologizing for his actions.