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Man Running For Sheriff In South Carolina Releases Campaign Video Showing Himself In Blackface

Man Running For Sheriff In South Carolina Releases Campaign Video Showing Himself In Blackface
Stivender for Sheriff/The Young Turks/YouTube

Craig Stivender is a Republican running for sheriff of Colleton County, South Carolina.

To kick off his campaign advertising, he released a video of some of the things he has done that were wrong in an attempt to avoid a scandal later.

Included in that video was a photo of him wearing blackface to a Halloween party in 2009.

Stivender began the video with an explanation for his sharing of faults.

"I want to tell you some things that politicians would try to hide, things that my opponents may try to use to tarnish my integrity."

He talked about various things that could be used against him, such as driving history and issues at work.

He then showed a photo of himself in blackface at the Halloween party and tried to explain it away as an attempt to "disparage" a criminal.

"If I'm a police officer, the exact opposite would be a gang member. So that's what I picked."
"I did it to disparage a criminal whose actions hurt our community and country."

The "gang member" in question, Demetrius “Big Meech" Flenory, likely had little to no effect on Stivender's small South Carolina community, however, as he was active in Atlanta, Georgia.

Flenory had also been in prison for several years before Stivender decided to use his likeness as a Halloween costume, so he wasn't exactly topical at the time either.

Far from actually apologizing in his video, the candidate didn't quite seem to grasp the fact that blackface is objectively wrong.

"That was a different time. Today we understand that type of costume is troubling to many."

Not wrong, just "troubling to many."

This was followed by more non-apology.

"To those who may be upset, I understand your disappointment. But I value honesty so I'm opening my campaign with transparency."

Instead of frankly disclosing some things that others might use to smear him and apologizing, he instead does a pretty good job of tarnishing his own integrity by never admitting that what he did was wrong.

He even went so far as to claim that there was no racial motivation for darkening his skin for the costume. He called attention to the fact that he attended the party with a black woman in an Interview with NPR. Stivender said that they have been friends since 6th grade and said she never questioned his use of blackface, as though that excused his behavior.

Folks on social media did not take kindly to Stivender's blackface, nor his non-apology.

Some called for voters to reject his disingenuous attempt at currying favor with "transparency".

Stivender has since removed his campaign page, where the video was released, from Facebook.

He claimed that 95% of the feedback he received on Facebook was positive, but the removal of his campaign page points to there being significant backlash.

Transparency definitely has an important part to play in politics, but it has to be paired with genuine remorse and growth. It isn't enough to just say "I did this thing and it bothered people," an actual confession of wrongdoing and a genuine apology are also necessary.

The book Love & Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class is available here.


Have you listened to the first season of George Takei's podcast, 'Oh Myyy Pod!'?

In season one we explored the racially charged videos that have taken the internet by storm.

We're hard at work on season two so be sure to subscribe here so you don't miss it when it goes live.

Here's one of our favorite episodes from season one. Enjoy!