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“Do we have a house n****r in here?” city councilor Tommy Bryant said as he stood before a stunned crowd Monday in Tarrant, AL.
“Do we? Do we?” Bryant continued as he pointed to Veronica Freeman, a Black council member. “Would she please stand up?”
Bryant then claimed that he was simply repeating remarks made by the city’s mayor, Wayman Newton (who is Black), during an executive session.
“That’s what the mayor called her. What do y’all think about that?”
Shortly after the comments were made in a public council meeting that was being broadcast on Facebook live, Ms. Freeman left the room, audibly sobbing.
Bryant’s comments came after he spent ten minutes defending racist Facebook posts made by his wife. During that time, Bryant also made discriminatory comments about Muslims and the LGBTQ community. Bryant repeated false, xenophobic rhetoric that Muslims “want to kill” anyone who isn’t a part of their faith. He then loosely compared Muslims and gay Americans to the Ku Klux Klan.
Racist councilor doubles down, refuses to resign
In an interview with a local television station, Bryant defended his racist remarks.
“I did what needed to be done,” Bryant said.
Tracie Threadford, another Black woman on the council, issued a statement saying Bryant is a “distraction” to the city and calling on him to resign.
Both the Alabama Democratic Party and the Alabama Republican Party also issued official statements condemning Bryant’s remarks. Alabama Democrats echoed calls for Bryan to step down and the state GOP called his remarks “completely unacceptable”, according to the Washington Post.
Bryant, however, remained defiant and said he would “absolutely not” resign and “may even run for mayor”.
When asked by a Black reporter if he was a racist, Bryant smiled and said “it depends on what your definition of a racist is.”
Hateful statements beat back with hopeful community dialogue
Perhaps just as stunning as Bryant’s racist comments is what happened after.
For nearly an hour, residents in the audience, council members and even officers engaged in honest dialogue around race relations across the community. One white man took to the podium for the entirety of the time as individuals throughout the room pushed back, shared perspectives and offered insight.
As Tommy Bryant sat in his chair with his head down, completely disengaged, several other councilors and the mayor agreed to hosting a “Tarrant Town Hall” to discuss issues of racism in the city.
Mayor Newton pledged to bring in professionals to help lead the conversations and all council members agreed to take part.
Well, all that is, except for Tommy Bryant.