Michigan Road Commissioner Uses Racist Slur, Blames Black People for Pandemic

Illustration for article titled Michigan Road Commissioner Uses Racist Slur, Blames Black People for Pandemic
Photo: AP Photo/Paul Sancya (AP)
Big Time Small-Time DicksWelcome to Big Time Small-Time Dicks, a regular column on The Slot that explores local politicians, small-town scandals, and everything else making life miserable on a local level.

At a public meeting in Leelanau County, Michigan on Tuesday, a road commissioner casually used the n-word while making excuses for not wearing a mask. Is it a stretch to use racism to excuse unnecessarily putting other people’s health at risk during a pandemic? Perhaps. But a racist will always find a way.

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The Detroit Free Press reported on the incident, which was first covered in an article on the Leelanau Enterprise’s website.

Road commissioner Tom Eckerle was asked by another road commissioner at the meeting on Tuesday why he wasn’t wearing a mask. Eckerle responded by saying “Well this whole thing is because of them n——— down in Detroit.”

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There is something deeply unnerving about the boldness and confidence this man had in saying a slur at a public meeting. He clearly had no concern that there might be real consequences for his statement. Some people might call that foolishness, but I call that awareness of privilege—being so sure that your whiteness will ultimately protect you that you don’t fear retribution. (Although Eckerle’s race wasn’t specified in the article, it seems fair to assume he’s white, especially in light of the rest of his comments.)

When Eckerle was pushed on why he made that entirely unnecessary and unprompted comment, he gave a response that also could’ve come from a toddler’s mouth.

“I can say anything I want,” Eckerle is cited as saying in the article. “Black Lives Matter has everything to do with taking the country away from us.”

Hmmm, I wonder who the “us” is in this scenario? (As a Black person who uses the internet, I’m not really wondering.)

How utterly perverse, using the fact that Black people are disproportionately dying as a result of contracting covid-19—a fact that countless experts have attributed to a variety of forms of racist discrimination—to justify your own anti-Black racism. And insulting Detroit in the process! A number of people have called for Eckerle to resign, including Jack O’Malley, the Republican politician who represents the district on the Michigan House of Representatives.

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I, also, can say anything I want. But it’s wild, I never want to say slurs.

Freelance writer who loves sandwiches, astrology, & fighting on the internet.

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DISCUSSION

The story actually gets even worse. I need you guys to see this.

Leelanau County is a really touristy county, and a not particularly Republican county. The entire community is going to denounce this guy as quickly as they can to save those tourist bucks.