Old Email from New Police Chief Includes the Word “Nigger” and Prompts Outrage…and Support from the Town’s Black Mayor

Police Chief Thomas Burke being sworn in, just over a week ago...and a few months after his "N word" email.
Police Chief Thomas Burke being sworn in, just over a week ago…and a few months after his “N word” email.

*Farrell Police Chief Thomas Burke hasn’t even started his job yet — he’s due to do that in January — but his email from a few months ago has sparked an uproar.

Back in April, when Burke was serving as director of safety and security at a local steel mill, he sent an email to about 20 of his friends and colleagues, soliciting funds for a local book drive. He wrote: “Good morning. Please click and review. Even a $1.00 will be greatly appreciated. Them Sharon niggers gotta learn to read.”

Sharon and Farrell are sister cities, both of which are just outside Pittsburg. According to the 2000 Census, Farrell’s black population sits at about 47 percent.

Burke had actually served as the chief of police in neighboring Sharon until his retirement in 2007, so he knows, presumably, a Sharon nigger when he sees one.

Now, it seems, Burke is humble and apologetic. Racists whose behavior comes to light before they’ve even started their high paying jobs usually are.

We’ve seen this type of “apology” many, many times:

“To everybody here, to everybody out there, my deepest…I cannot tell you, from the bottom of my heart, I am truly sorry,” Burke said at a press conference a couple of days ago.

Truly, he is sorry.

“I apologize deeply,” he added, according to a WKBN report.

I told you: he’s sorry.  But he’s not sorry for using the word “nigger.” He’s sorry he got caught using it.  In Burke’s ideal world, his 7 month old email would have never seen the light of day.

Let me tell you about someone else who’s sorry. Farrell’s Mayor, Olive McKeithan. Her black ass is about as sorry as it gets, as she’s doing a serious Tammy Wynette, standing by her man:

“Until you get to know a man’s character, you can’t judge him by one off-the-cuff remark, or else we would have to judge all white people as equally guilty,” McKeithan said.

Yes, Madame Mayor, you CAN judge a persons character by an off-the-cuff remark.  And your comment about needing to judge all white people “equally guilty” makes about as much sense as you supporting your racist chief of police.

“I have spoken with Mr. Burke and consider the matter as closed,” the mayor added.

I don’t, Madame Mayor, and I don’t believe many of your town’s residents will.  I’ll consider the matter closed when the Chief of Police job posting is open, and Burke resigns or is fired.

I’m not alone. Farrell Councilwoman Stephanie Sheffield, who is also African American, said she was upset when she learned of the offensive email, adding that Burke had come to her with a letter of apology, stating that he is very familiar with the area’s black community.

In other words, I am correct:  Burke admits he knows a Sharon nigger when he sees one.

“[Burke said] he does use the N-word very often because that’s the way it is in our area,” Sheffield said. “I don’t think] he should stand in that position if he’s going to use the N-word.”

Me, either. I never use it, and certainly could never advocate for a chief of police to use it at all, let alone in an official capacity. This article marks the first time I’ve ever used the word “nigger” in writing. I believe it’s a offensive, vile word with too much history to have a place in modern, civilized vernacular. However, I have always believed the use of the term “the N word” whitewashes the issue. Let’s quote others who use THE WORD, including the chief, verbatim:

“THEM SHARON NIGGERS GOTTA LEARN TO READ.”

That statement carries some power, especially coming from a chief of police, doesn’t it?

For the record, Mr. Burke, that should have read “THOSE Sharon niggers NEED TO learn to read.” It sounds like you could use the grammar / reading lesson.

Farrell city leaders are planning to host a community forum next week, to voice concerns and ask questions about the controversy surrounding the new police chief.

I wish I could go.

Weigh in on this issue. Is an apology enough? Should Burke resign? Should his offer of employment be rescinded?

MPCBatman2015

Michael P Coleman is a freelance writer based in Sacramento, California. However, in his heart, he’ll always be a Detroiter. He holds a Bachelor of Arts with High Honors and Distinction from the University of Michigan. Connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP

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