William Smith, The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa –
NEW LONDON – The Burlington branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is asking for the resignation of newly elected New London Mayor Ron Sadler.
The request is a response to a December incident in which Sadler made a racial slur in a convenience store, referring to two black children as “coons.” News about the slur quickly spread after Lindsay Porter of New London wrote about it in a letter to the editor to the New London Journal. Porter has called for Sadler’s resignation several times since.
Fred Seay, president of the Burlington branch of the NAACP, said he was greatly disappointed by Sadler’s remark. Though the NAACP branch is based in Burlington, Seay said the organization represents all of southeast Iowa.
“We would like to express our regret that a person of public office would use such degrading remarks toward small children and a minority population. Several of our members grew up in the South and the North, and stated that a remark like that was never acceptable to blacks at any time period. Mr. Sadler said the situation was blown out of proportion, but what was the reasoning in saying something like that?” Seay said in a statement originally intended as a letter to the editor for The Hawk Eye. “Racial slurs to describe others are disrespectful and show a disregard for what Dr. (Martin Luther) King stood for … that a person should be judged on their character and not the color of their skin.”
During a phone interview, Seay took issue with a quote from Sadler in The Hawk Eye, where Sadler said the racial slur was acceptable while he served in the military.
“I grew up in Colored Town in Mount Pleasant, and I had a lot of black friends,” Sadler was quoted as saying. “I went to school with them and was in the service with them. Back then, that was what we said, and nobody got mad or upset.”
Seay, who served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, said he became friends with people of several races while he served, and the term “coon” never was acceptable.
“I can’t think of any time when blacks would want to be called that name,” Seay said.
Sadler later apologized for the remark and faced more than 300 locals who showed up to the city council meeting earlier this month, many of them angry over his comment. Sadler then mistakenly said he had the full support of the New London City council, but two councilmen, Dan Berner and Mark Hempen, rebuked that claim, saying they do no support him.
Sadler refused to comment on the NAACP’s stance, other than to say he has no plans to step down as mayor.
NAACP secretary and Burlington resident Lyn Stinson, who grew up in Opelika, Ala., and moved to Burlington in the mid-1960s, also is hoping to see Sadler step down. Stinson was honored with the Martin Luther King Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008 and has seen racism first hand.
“It (‘coon’) is really the same as the ‘N word,'” she said. “It’s a word that is not used, and it’s not acceptable. Why would he have anything to say about kids?”
While Stinson is grateful for Sadler’s apology, she said it’s not enough. The damage already has been done, she said.
“He’s just coming in (as mayor), and already there’s a division (in the town),” she said.
While councilmen Greg Thu and Kirk Miller previously stated they did not want to comment on Sadler’s situation, Stinson said she is happy to see that not the entire council supports Sadler, which will make her feel more comfortable the next time she’s in New London.
“I would feel like this town (New London) would have negative feelings toward me if it weren’t for that,” Stinson said.
Council woman Alisha Hudnall said Sadler was grossly wrong when he used the racial slur but noted the council has no power to make him step down. She said the council will continue to take care of business, regardless of the mayor’s situation.
“I support New London,” she said.
The NAACP is one of several organizations hosting the 23rd annual Burlington-area Martin Luther King Jr. Service at 6 p.m. Monday at Memorial Auditorium.