Rodney Thomas on Race

One month ago BoS candidate Rodney Thomas was interviewed by Lisa Provence for The Hook. In the context of highlighting his local roots (versus those of his opponent, incumbent Democrat David Slutzky), Provence wrote:

Rodney Thomas has lived in Charlottesville all his life. He went to Lane High School and as a freshman, was president of the Young Republican Club in 1958, the year Governor Lindsay Almond closed the school rather than integrate it.

“We got along fine,” he says of African-American students. “I think it was a pure government thing to force down people throats. Blacks had the best school. We loved to go over there [to Burley].”

Thomas is referring, of course, to massive resistance, which closed both Lane High, the white school, and Burley High, the black school. Lane’s facilities were considerably better than those of Burley, as was standard for black schools; hence the debate over “separate but (un)equal” and Brown v. Board of Education. Since Thomas wasn’t a student at Burley, though, he may not have known that.

Well, those remarks didn’t escape Slutzky’s attention, and he brought them up at Albemarle Democrats’ annual barbeque last weekend, as Brandon Shulleeta writes in today’s Progress. When asked to explain the remarks by Shulleeta, Thomas said that he didn’t really want to talk about integration, for fear of being “misconstrued,” but said that he “always thought that integration was necessary.” But then, unfortunately for Thomas, he kept talking:

However, Thomas said he doesn’t always use words that society considers “politically correct.”

“There’s certain things that I say, that I’ve said all of my life. And I really don’t want to have to change my vocabulary just to adapt to someone else’s politically correct answer to something. I mean, I’m still having a hard time calling Asians, ‘Asians.’ I still call them ‘Orientals,’” Thomas said. “And I have a hard time calling the black people African-Americans. I’m forcing myself to do it.”

Thomas added: “The word ‘N-word’ was never used in my house. And I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think I’ve ever used the word either, unless it was ‘Negro.’ I don’t know; do they mind me calling them a Negro anymore? Is that improper also?”


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