Mayor's ad angers black community

January 30, 2009 4:36:36 AM PST
In between a dream and change, the mayor sits in a new political ad under the word "hope." But now the mayor may be hoping this advertisement doesn't come back to haunt him. Some community activists have taken offense to the advertisement they're calling insensitive to the black community. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Houston Mayor Bill White traditionally places advertisements in several black community newspapers on the holidays honoring Juneteenth and Martin Luther King, Jr. But never before has one of those political ads drawn the attention or the criticism of the one that appeared in the Defender newspaper last week. With Dr. King to the left, President Obama to the right, and Mayor White in the middle. Above their heads appear the words dream, change, and hope, respectively.

Deric Muhammad with the Million More Ministry said, "I think that it shows a blatant insensitivity toward the black community."

Muhammad led a group of dissatisfied community members in rejecting the ad, which they say insults their intelligence.

Quanell X with the New Black Panther Nation said, "We say to Mayor Bill White, 'Who in the hell do you think you are?'"

Mayor White -- also a candidate for the US Senate -- responded to the criticism saying he meant no offense. But he stopped short of an apology.

"I don't particularly like the composition of the ad," Mayor White said. "There was no attempt to compare my life's achievements to these great individuals."

The Defender newspaper designed the ad and got approval for it from a White campaign staffer before the paper was published on a tight deadline.

"I think the ad was created with a good intent," explained Sonny Messiah Jiles with the Defender Media Group. "The message spoke to paying tribute by the mayor to these two great men."

The newspaper has since published a follow up article asking for reader input about the ad, both in print and online. Three out of four readers have responded that they are not offended. Those readers don't include those still demanding an apology from the mayor.

"Many who saw this ad were offended, insulted, and some were even angered that Mayor Bill White would place himself in a celestial scene between Dr. Martin Luther King and President Barack Obama," Muhammad said.

Given that Mayor White is running for senate, this is the kind of issue that might stick around for a while.

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