NAACP and Greenville’s Mayor respond to controversial social media post

GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – The Greenville National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has responded to the city’s controversial Black History month post shared this week. The post featured Greenville’s Mayor, and shared some of his experiences during school integration.

Greenville’s NAACP held a press conference on Friday, expressing concerns.

“The reason why I called this press conference, is that we were expressing our discontent about an article that was printed from the City of Greenville’s communication person,” said Rev. J.M. Flemming, President of Greenville’s Branch, NAACP. “They put a white face on it for the black community, which was distasteful to us because we were concerned. Why would you ask a white person, who was not moved, who was not bothered, who was not challenged, who was not spitted on, not kicked on, not shot at nor killed,” Flemming said.  

The post, which has now been taken down, displayed a picture of Mayor White along with quotes and statements about his time at Greenville High School during integration.

Social media post by the City of Greenville
Social media post by the City of Greenville (Source: City of Greenville)

“Our discontent is we are tired of the white community taking the narrative, twisting it, and telling our story for us. We are quite able to tell our own story. Our own experiences and share with you our feelings without you telling me how I feel,” Flemming said. “Black folks are able to tell their own story.”

City of Greenville’s spokesperson Beth Brotherton took full responsibility in an apology on Tuesday, saying it was a poor decision. She also stated the mayor wasn’t aware of it, and that the statements came from a 2020 documentary.

Apology from the City of Greenville communications
Apology from the City of Greenville communications (Source: City of Greenville)

“That’s not enough. That’s not going to fly,” Flemming said. “Whites didn’t go through what we went through. They didn’t experience what we experienced, so why would you ask a white about it,” he said.

Flemming said he had a meeting with Brotherton before the press conference about the post.

“The communication that we had–with all of the challenges that we’re having with the city. Black contractors are not being hired. Houses are needed in black communities. Black folks are not being hired at the City of Greenville. There are several things, and I’m asking the question–you don’t think it’s distasteful to come out here now and to present this,” Flemming said.

Mayor White sent a statement to 7NEWS crews saying, ” I agree that the post should not have been made.  It was inappropriate and perplexing to include me in a Black History Month presentation,” White said.

However, community leaders said this speaks to a deeper issue of black voices being silenced.

“That opens up an opportunity to address the issue. This issue that we saw manifested in the mayor’s face on Black History month, Black History month documentary, speaks to a deeper issue. In our school district, we have those who would not have black history articulated, and taught in the schools. That says there is a suppression of the black voice in the historical narrative,” said Bishop Sam Zimmerman, First Vice-President of Greenville Branch, NAACP.

They hope this will now spark some change in the community.

“This incident points to that same kind of underlining outcome, in many of our issues across the board, whether it’s criminal justice disparity, economic disparities, educational disparities. All of those are areas where black folks voices are not heard,” Zimmerman said.

“We got several areas that we need to open up and speak and have true dialogue about. We want to be included in it, not talked about from it, but we want to be included in it in making the decision,” Flemming said.

Flemming said on they will have another meeting on Monday with Brotherton to bring some resolve.

“I did meet with them today and I have another meeting on Monday to continue the conversation. I’d like to hear more, listen more, absorb more before I do more talking. I appreciate their invitation to me today and openness to continue the dialogue,” Brotherton said.

Mayor White also said he’s “eager” to listen to points of view and first-hand experiences in the African American community.