The city of Griffin, Ga., has a lot going on right now.
On March 27, the Atlanta suburb declared the month of April to be Confederate History Month. That same day, the city commission had a meeting to allow the public to voice their concerns, comments and ask questions about the proclamation.
One man’s comments included repeated usage of the word “niggertown,” much to the ire of one of the city’s three black commissioners, Rodney McCord.
Former Griffin City Commissioner Larry Johnson was one of the many citizens who took the podium to address the commission, and he aimed his comments directly at McCord.
After introducing himself, Johnson began by saying that he did not come prepared to speak that night, but “what the heck,” it looked like “a good thing to do. Maybe.”
Then, looking at McCord, he said “When I get through, we still gon’ be friends, if we were friends to start with. ’Cause I’m not gon’ change.”
McCord responded and said, “Neither am I, sir.”
Johnson called McCord “son” and told him that he has already changed—he got better. He reminded McCord that at one point McCord had been refusing to salute the flag. He insinuated that his wearing a Confederate belt buckle is what convinced McCord to start saluting the flag again.
McCord disputed his recollection of the events.
Johnson continued and told McCord that he had previously given him a history of how things were when he (Johnson) was growing up.
“I told you at that time that there were white folks and there were black folks when I was growing up,” Johnson said. “There was white trash, my family, and there was niggertown. I lived next to niggertown.”
McCord was immediately taken aback and asked Johnson, “You lived next to what town?”
Standing even higher on his racist soapbox, Johnson repeated himself—clearly not caring whom he offended.
“Niggertown, son. I’m telling you that I’ve changed. I’m no longer white trash, and they’re no longer called that,” Johnson said.
As the rest of the board sat silently, McCord attempted to express his objection to the language Johnson was using. He was stopped by commission Chairman Douglas Hollberg, who told him to let Johnson make his point.
“Now, if that’s offensive, I apologize for being offensive,” Johnson said as McCord continued to try to express his objections.
“Rodney, I don’t use that word anymore,” Johnson said directly to McCord.
“You just used it right then,” McCord replied.
Hollberg again tried silencing McCord. “Mr. McCord, please let him get to the point so we can move on.”
Obviously frustrated, McCord raised his voice and said:
He can get to his point, but I’m not going to sit here. … Maybe y’all are comfortable with it, I don’t know. I’m not going to sit here and let this man use that type of language. And if nobody else is offended, then I am. Now, if y’all want to clap and think that that’s OK for this gentleman to stand, in 2018, and get here at the board of city commission meeting—2018—the Civil War is over and he is using the n-word not once, not twice—three times! And he just continues to say it with not one word about who it offends.
Hollberg then asked Johnson to refrain from using the n-word and told him to make his point.
The rest of Johnson’s public comment is a long, rambling rant about how a flag can’t hate and a flag can’t love, and how he had studied the Confederacy.
“My skin is white and my neck is red, and I was born in a Southern bed. Nothing wrong with that. I hope that doesn’t offend anybody,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that he was an American and “proud of it.”
At the end of his remarks, Johnson tried making the argument that the Civil War wasn’t fought over slavery, and said that the reason blacks were enslaved in America was that “the Africans were at war.”
Bonnie Moret, the woman who spoke after Johnson, told the commission that the language she heard from Johnson was offensive and not at all representative of the wonderful, loving community that she made her home a year ago.
“I propose that we have a list of words that can and cannot be used here during the commission meeting,” Moret said. “Because if I stood up here and used a four-letter word that began with an “f” and ended with a “k,” everyone would be offended, so I think there should be a decorum from everyone … just everyone, just respect other people. Thank you.”
On Tuesday, Johnson released the following statement, according to WSB-TV, insisting that he is not racist:
I was trying to make a point about a time in my life when I was five years old playing with other kids about that age; black and white kids not yet touched by cruelties in the world. In doing so, I used words familiar back then, but I did not get a chance to say we no longer use those words today, and the world is a better place.
Also worth noting: The woman who spoke immediately prior to Johnson, first name Shannon, said that she felt “personally attacked by the board” and began her comment by outlining her ancestry and how much racism she had endured in her life.
For the record, Shannon is white.
She got up to give a “not all white people” speech and called it disgraceful that people openly expressed their offense at the Confederate History Month proclamation.
“I do not assume by the color of someone’s skin that they are a violent antifa or BLM member,” Shannon said.
She just doesn’t want us to think that everyone who is celebrating this holiday is racist.