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"I Don't Mess With Black Men"

Palin’s Racist Remark

by LINN WASHINGTON, Jr.

It’s that character thing, Sarah Palin declares.

The GOP’s VP candidate defends her increasingly strident verbal assaults on Barack Obama as legitimate questions about the Democratic presidential candidate.

Well, for Charles Greg Royal, it’s that character thing also.

This internationally renowned jazz musician recently utilized the National Press Club in Washington, DC to recount a flirtatious encounter he had in Alaska with a woman who identified herself as Sarah Heath.

Royal said this encounter ended after a racist remark by the woman now known as Gov Sarah Palin.

Making that racist remark, Royal contends, coupled with Gov Palin’s disengaged relations with racial minorities in Alaska speaks volumes about her character.

“When you view what happened with me in the context with what is happening with blacks and other minorities in Alaska under Gov Palin, it is clear that what I encountered was not a fluke. It shows her character,” Royal said during an interview hours after that press conference in DC where he directs the American Youth Symphony, Inc.

While that racist remark reflects character, Royal said, the flirtation by a woman who did not reveal at the time that she was both married and pregnant speaks to “mortality and fidelity.” 

Royal said that in 1990, when performing with the Duke Ellington Band in Anchorage, the trombonist struck up a conversation with a woman at a fast food restaurant who initially identified herself as Sarah. During that conversation, Sarah volunteered that her last name was Heath, Royal said, after he mentioned the acclaimed jazz musician Percy Heath. Palin’s maiden name is Heath.

Royal said the conversation went smoothly until some of his fellow Band members came over to the table. Sarah’s entire demeanor changed.

While Royal is a light skin black man sometimes mistaken as white by whites, his fellow jazzmen causing Heath’s attitude shift were dark skin.

“You could see it…the body language. There was a visceral reaction,” said Royal who asked Sarah if something was wrong.

According to Royal, Heath’s response to his inquiry was, “Excuse me, but I don’t mess with black men.”

Royal said he told Heath, “I’m a black man” and Sarah responded, “But, you’re not really black.”

Royal, who admits trying to “hit on” Sarah, said he ended the conversation telling her not to worry about it and have a nice day.

Royal said he began connecting dots between that encounter 18-years ago and the current GOP VP candidate after watching a biographical report about Palin on television.

“I did not know Palin was the person I spoke with until I saw the MSNBC program,” Royal said. “My reaction was Holy Shit!”

When asked how he could possible remember a brief encounter so many years ago, Royal said, “there are a lot of details I do not remember but the key triggers are things anyone could remember and when a person says “I don’t talk to black guys” when the black guys are not actually trying to date you or talk to in anyway that is not a dating comment but a racist one.”

Gov Palin’s Press Secretary, Bill McAllister, did not respond to an emailed request for comment on Royal’s claims.

This encounter with Palin that Royal revealed comes at a time of revelations about dissatisfactions voiced by racial minorities in Alaska about the governance policies and practices of Palin, a former mayor of a small city elected as that state’s chief executive two years ago.

Eleanor Andrews, board chair of the Anchorage Urban League, said she is unaware of any programs or outreach to Alaska’s black community by Palin.

“It’s not a disengagement. It’s just no connection. She does not have relations with African Americans,” said Andrews, a businesswoman and 44-year resident of Alaska.

While Gov Palin has twice refused to either attend or even formally recognize an official state holiday in Alaska important to African-Americans, she delivered a video-taped address this year for the convention of the Alaskan Independence Party, a group pushing secession of Alaska from the United States. Palin’s husband, Todd, belonged to this Party for seven years.

“People say that when [Palin] took over as governor blacks lost jobs in state government,” said attorney Rex Butler. “It seems that the posture of her administration with blacks is: Don’t need them – Don’t worry about them.”

Palin, through spokespersons, denies allegations that her record of hiring and retaining racial minorities in government posts compares poorly with her predecessors.

“I’m African-American and I am a big rebuttal to those charges,” said Palin Press Secretary Bill McAllister, a former broadcast journalist.

“She is not averse to hiring Africa-Americans,” said McAllister who acknowledged that Palin’s office “never” compiled statistics on minorities in her administration.

McAllister joined Palin’s staff in August 2008, a few months after a contentious meeting between Palin and a group of black leaders where her staffing was questioned.

With Palin’s campaign trail criticisms assailing Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright Jr. being anti-white and anti-American, concerns again arise about a line in her RNC acceptance speech. The source of that line is the late writer Westbrook Pegler, a man known for his anti-Semitism, criticism of the 60s Civil Rights Movement and work with notorious segregationist groups.

Although a President Bush speech writer penned Palin’s RNC speech, she never distanced herself from Pegler once the source of that quote became widely known. Yet, Palin incorrectly claims Obama has never distanced himself from 60s-era radical Bill Ayers – the man she terms a domestic terrorist.

Racially tinged reactions at McCain-Palin rallies have made news recently. A person at a Palin rally in Fort Myers, Fl told a black television technician to “Sit down Boy” during outbursts following a Palin tirade against the media.

Royal says he’s “not political” although he admits favoring Obama. But Royal says he decided to reveal his encounter with Palin because he felt it was a factoid of some may find significant when considering the Palin candidacy.

“I feel that Palin is a very narrow viewed and culturally unsophisticated person who clearly has not seen the world or its diverse peoples,” Royal said.

“The racism I believe she possesses is not necessarily from a misguided hatred but from a boastful ignorance that clearly celebrates the need not to know or the desire to know.”

Linn Washington Jr. is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune.

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