Former Michigan Official Just Your Typical Non-Racist Who Won’t Stop Saying 'N-Word’
Last week, Republican Tom Eckerle, an elected road commissioner for Leelanau County in Michigan, dropped the “n-word" before the start of a meeting, which was not about The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or the work of Quentin Tarantino. Eckerle was asked why he wasn't wearing a mask, and while the answer to the question is usually “this person's an idiot," Eckerle made it clear that he's also a racist idiot.
“Well, this whole thing is because of them n------ down in Detroit," Eckerle said in a meeting that was open to the public and that anyone could listen to over the phone. Although COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black people in Michigan, the disease itself is not our fault. Donald Trump hasn't started calling it the “China N-Word Virus" ... yet.
Bob Joyce, the chairman of the Leelanau Road Commission, advised Eckerle that he couldn't use a racial epithet in public.
JOYCE: You can't say that.
ECKERLE: I can say anything I want. Black Lives Matter has everything to do with taking the country away from us.
Eckerle's figured us out. Black folks have a five-point plan for world domination: First, we convince white people to stop killing us. Then ... well, we actually haven't gotten to the other four points because we've spent 400 years on the first one.
Activist and author Kimberly Jones said that white people were lucky that "what Black people are looking for is equality and not revenge." People like Eckerle, and there are many, don't feel so lucky. They're convinced we're going to go Rhodesia Bush War on them. White people, especially men, don't have a lot of experience on the non-violent side of non-violent protest.
Eckerle's racist rant drew quick condemnation. The other members of the commission asked him to step down. Good for them. Governor Gretchen Whitmer also said Eckerle should resign and get fitted for a white hood (she didn't say the last part).
"His comments are atrocious," she said in a statement. "The Governor has been very clear — there's no place for hate and racism in Michigan."
There's no place in our living room for my Marilyn Monroe Chanel No. 5 poster, at least according to my wife, but there's long been a place for hate and racism in Michigan. Eckerle, an elected county official, is living proof.
Leelanau County Administrator Chet Janik confirmed on Friday that Eckerle would step down. The same day, Eckerle had given a radio interview where he kept using the “n-word" while explaining he's not a racist. He must think the word refers exclusively to stock car drivers.
"I'm not a racist," Eckerle told the AP. "Black Lives Matter is racist. If I believed in Black Lives Matter, I would be racist. … Black Lives Matter has no heart. And that is as offensive to me as the N-word," he added, then used the full racial slur.
Racists just can't handle that Black people believe their lives have value and that the police shouldn't summarily execute them because it's Thursday. “Black Lives Matter" is such a humble statement. If our objective was to take the country, we should've come up with a bolder declaration of purpose. "Black Lives Will Fuck You Up" was my original suggestion but it didn't make it out of committee.
Eckerle is also very upset about the removal of Confederate statues. Michigan fought on the American side of the Civil War, but it's kind of obvious Eckerle is a gross white supremacist. He said during his interview that he felt no regret over using the “n-word" and kept repeating it, as if like Paul Mooney once said, he was trying to keep his teeth white.
"No, I don't regret calling it an n----r," Eckerle said. "A n----r is a n----r is a n----r. That's not a person whatsoever."
He also claimed during the interview that the “n-word" is no different from calling someone a “German" or a “Polack," although the latter is itself an ethnic slur. This guy would embarrass David Duke.
If I could get a few people that, when they see a Black Lives Matter sign up, to think the N-word, I have accomplished what I'm after.
If that's his life's ambition, Eckerle will die disappointed and stupid.
Last week, Whitmer declared racism a “public health crisis" and created a state advisory council to confront systemic racism in Michigan. State employees will also have to take implicit bias training. Meanwhile, outright racists such as Eckerle aren't even bothering to hide under rocks.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).