Did Palin Really Say She Wouldn’t Hire Blacks?

New America Media, News Analysis, Earl Ofari Hutchinson Posted: Sep 23, 2008

Editor’s note: In a meeting with a group of prominent African-American leaders on April 29, 2008, Alaska governor Sarah Palin allegedly said that she wouldn’t hire blacks in her cabinet or on her staff. This explosive charge—if true—would cast serious doubts on Palin’s fitness for the vice-presidency. NAM contributing editor Earl Ofari Hutchinson examines the accuracy of the claim.

Sarah Palin admittedly hasn’t had much of a track record when it comes to acknowledging—let alone promoting—diversity during her short tenure as Alaska governor. She’s on record with a terse utterance on hate crimes legislation and on cultural diversity. But Palin’s skimpy track record and paucity of words on diversity is relatively tame compared to the far more damaging accusation that’s making the rounds.

On April 29, 14 black leaders in Alaska, including prominent ministers, NAACP officials, and community activists, met with Palin to voice their complaint over minority hiring and job opportunities. During the meeting she allegedly said that she didn’t have to hire any blacks. Even more damning, she purportedly said that she didn’t intend to hire any.

Gwen Alexander, president of the African-American Historical Society of Alaska, initially reported Palin’s quip. This charge is so racially incendiary that it sounded like yet another one of the legion of Palin urban legends that have fueled the cyber gossip mill from the moment Republican presidential contender John McCain put her on his ticket. The charge had to be confirmed or denied. If Governor Palin or any other public official flatly said that they had no intention to hire blacks, that would be politically unpardonable. And for a potential vice-president, it would and should be the kiss of death.

In a phone message to this writer, Megan Stapleton, a Palin spokesperson with the McCain-Palin campaign committee, vehemently denied that Palin ever said that she would not hire blacks. Sharon Leighow, communications spokesperson in the Alaska governor’s office, also disputed the allegation. She said that Palin’s press secretary was part African-American and that two of her senior advisors were Filipino and Korean.

Leighow was also adamant that Palin did not hire staff persons based on color, but solely on talent and skill. As she put it, “Governor Palin is totally color-blind.”

But in a phone conversation, Gwen Alexander of the African-American Historical Society of Alaska stuck by her contention that Palin made the racially charged retort. She also charged that Palin did not support or even officially acknowledge the group’s annual Juneteenth Commemoration.

June 19 is celebrated as the date of slave emancipation in Texas. Alaska is one of 13 states that has designated it an official holiday. Other Alaska governors have sent the traditional greetings and acknowledgements to the Society. Alexander says Palin snubbed the group.

The unofficial charge, then, is that Palin is insensitive to the state’s African Americans, and that includes refusing to hire and appoint African Americans. That charge is hotly disputed by Palin’s staff and they cite names and numbers to back it up. But apart from the veracity of the charge and the denial, Palin’s statement that she’s absolutely color-blind when it comes to hiring does set off warning bells.

The color-blind argument strikes at the heart of the continuing debate over what and how far public officials should go to insure that their staffs and their appointments truly represent the broadest diversity possible. Officials must make a concerted outreach effort to make that happen. A color-blind posture more often than not has been nothing but a convenient excuse not to seek out, hire or promote African Americans and other minorities in their administration, no matter how qualified.

Diversity is a major issue this election. It’s implicit in Democratic rival Barack Obama’s White House run. It’s explicit in Ward Connerly’s anti-affirmative initiative on the ballot in three states this November. Obama opposes it. McCain backs it, and so does Palin.

Palin’s commitment to diversity is no small point in Alaska. According to the 2000 Census figures, blacks make up officially about 4 percent of the state population. But those who self-identify as at least part African-American bump up the percentage much higher. When American Indians, Aleuts, Eskimos, and Asians are taken together, minorities make up about one quarter of Alaska’s population. This makes the state one of the most ethnically diverse in the nation. Diversity must be more than a word that an Alaska governor pays campaign lip service to and then ignores.

Palin’s campaign and gubernatorial spokespersons say the charge that she is hostile to blacks and minorities is unfair. That may well be true. But according to those black leaders in Alaska who challenged Palin on her administration’s minority hiring practices, the charge is much deserved.

NAM Editor Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

Related Articles:

The Palin Effect Stops at Koreatown

African American Voter Registration Surges

Todd Palin No Poster Boy for Yup’ik Eskimos or Other Native Alaskans

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User Comments


Dave Thomas on Sep 26, 2008 at 01:43:06 said:

I fell that it is a shame that we live in Alaska and our own governor would not send anyone out and be apart of the juneteenth festival...is this America the land of the free.....is this America where blacks and whites love one another...is this America where a black and a white man can go to war at 18 and fight side by side and call each other brother.....is this America were in a state that is so rich of black culture that a women that is white would not even send a rep from her office....that a women that is so called in touch with blacks.....that a women that is for the people in Alaska...the voice of Alaska did not show up for juneteenth 2008 in anchorage Alaska or send any one from her office.....CBS..ABC...NBC...CNN...WHO IS GOING TO COME GET THE REAL STORY.......BISHOP DAVE THOMAS...MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF THE ALASKA NATIONAL JUNETEENTH COMMITTEE


Marshall Brown on Sep 25, 2008 at 20:17:39 said:

Why didn\'t the reporter contact one or more of the 14 allegedly at the meeting? I don;t doubt Palin is a bigot, but using only one source is plain bad journalism.


Fred Jones on Sep 25, 2008 at 16:13:49 said:

This is an obvious set-up by Gwen Alexander and other black so-called leaders who are trying to elect Barack Obama. Another race card from the Obama camp and their supporters. I don't know about you, but I'm not looking forward to 4 or 8 years of race cards being thrown at anyone who dares disagree with Obama. One more thing: This whole claim is rather ridiculous coming from an Obama supporter, when you consider that Obama belonged to a racist black liberation theology church for 20 years, and considered its racist pastor to be his mentor and spiritual adviser. The racist Obama is not fit to be President.


G. Simon on Sep 25, 2008 at 06:56:53 said:

This is for the idiot that says "Obama is a Nazi". You must be doing very well off like the Bush's/Cheney's/Palin's/ and McCain's of the world and not concerned about the rest of the country that struggles while our supposed leaders destroy our economy, engages in war's without merit, lies and flip flops on issue after issue, votes against disabled vets benefits, etc. etc. You have the nerve to hate obama because he's smarter than your candidates. Your hatred for Obama is probably a more deeply rooted hatred for minorities and you don't want to see one in the white house, but sorry punk it's over for the corrupt republican party including ms. sarah palin. Alaska can have her because honestly I dont want another lying republican governing my country.


paul on Sep 24, 2008 at 19:14:50 said:

While meeting with Black leaders concerning the absence of any African Americans on her staff,

Why complain, she did not have to even meet with you,


Ezra Temko on Sep 24, 2008 at 15:13:21 said:

Of course she's color-blind. The only thing Palin looks for is if you were her friend in junior high.


Nezzie on Sep 24, 2008 at 08:16:54 said:

Hockey Mom and a Pitbull = Lipstick

So, we will now let it rain, let it rain, I cannot believe that the NAACP has a nerve to step up and say anything about this woman, this organizaton does not even look out for it's own people. This is an organization that has nothing to say about the J. Shaw murder, or the 3 killings of the black college students in NJ. They say nothing regarding the ethnic cleansing that the illegal immigrants are practicing against their own race but yet they have a lot to say about Palin, yea right, give me a break, the NAACP is disgusting. Take care of what your ethnic-centric group is supposed to be doing, stop aligning black people with illegal immigrants and hispanics who help to hold the slaves for the Americans do your job, LaRaza is certainly doing theirs!


Obama is a Nazi on Sep 24, 2008 at 07:42:16 said:

More lies from the Obama fascists.


Ken Floyd on Sep 24, 2008 at 04:22:11 said:

Great story!
I only wish you had more people saying they heard this comment.
For now, it's she said she said.


Writing from Alaska on Sep 24, 2008 at 02:31:31 said:

Hello - I have done some research on this and now will check into the April meeting you mention. From the research I have done so far, I put together an article at
the blog - Writing from Alaska -
Does Sarah Palin Understand Diversity?
and I just added another article on the same topic. The first article deals with African American and Alaska Native concerns, the second on primarily Alaska Native. If she is 'color blind' she is certainly blind to concerns of both of these groups. Thank you for writing about this issue. It is disturbing that no one in the larger media outlets has yet come to grips with this information and reported it to the public.


Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D. on Sep 23, 2008 at 21:55:09 said:

Editor's correction to story needed:

JUNETEENTH IS A STATE HOLIDAY OR STATE HOLIDAY OBSERVANCE IN 29 STATES, NOT JUST 13
AS REPORTED IN YOUR STORY!

"DOC"
Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D.
Chairman
National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign
National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF)
National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council (NJCLC)
www.Juneteenth.us
www.19thofJune.com
www.njclc.com
www.JuneteenthJazz.com


Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D. on Sep 23, 2008 at 21:49:44 said:

The following is a statement from one of our Juneteenth Directors in Alaska:


"As for Governor Sarah Palin's involvement in the African American community, the Governor's office hasn't participated in any of our Alaska Juneteenth Events. All previous Alaskan Governor's have traditionally attended and participated in our annual Juneteenth Celebration. Gov. Palin was the first governor not to send out a congratulatory letter or assist us in any way with our Juneteenth activities.

I didn't have the courtesy of receiving a reply when I asked for a representative from the Governor's office to come and speak at our Juneteenth Celebration if Governor Palin was unable to attend. I never even heard of Gov. Palin until she was elected Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, in Mat-Su Valley.

Governor Palin is a very energetic and spontaneous woman. With some of the things being said and going around this state right now, I'm surprised none of the national media have bothered to come here and get the words directly from the mouths of the people who have lived with her all of these years instead of 'surfing the net!'

My other opinion is why would an individual who, to my knowledge, has not hired any African Americans on her gubernatorial staff, insist so passionately on being on a television show owned and operated by an African American, Oprah Winfrey?

While meeting with Black leaders concerning the absence of any African Americans on her staff, Gov. Palin responded that she doesn't have to hire any Blacks and was not intending to hire any. What kind of attitude is this toward African American for who may be the first Vice-President of the United States?

I understand Oprah did have Senator Obama on her show a few times and was the main person raising funds for him "before" the presidency race was in full swing. However, the key point here is that it is Oprah's prerogative not be used as a pawn to tilt the vote one way or another. Oprah has stated repeatedly that she wasn't going to have one side or the other on her show by choice. I thought that was what the Civil Rights Movement was all about, a persons right to make their own choices. I guess this isn't a Democracy at all anymore."

Gwendolyn Alexander, President
African American Historical Society of Alaska
Alaska Juneteenth Celebration
P. O. Box 143105
Anchorage AK 99514
(907) 884-6860

“DOC”
Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D.
Chairman
National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign
National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF)
National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council (NJCLC)
www.Juneteenth.us
www.19thofJune.com
www.njclc.com
www.JuneteenthJazz.com


Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D. on Sep 23, 2008 at 21:10:26 said:

Alaska has a population of around 25,000 African-Americans, with a total population of around 700,000. Therefore, African-Americans make up around 4% of the overall population of Alaska, with higher percentages in the larger cities like Anchorage.

We should familiarize ourselves to the history of African-Americans in Alaska:

www.akhistorycourse.org/articles/article.php?artID=233

For example, African-Americans who built the highway to Alaska stayed to live after it was completed. Taking the position that the people who continue to play a significant role in the building of the infrastructure of Alaska should not be represented on the staff of Gov. Palin is preposterous.

Gov. Palin\'s attitude toward Alaska\'s black population indicates what her feelings might be toward all African-Americans as vice-president and possibly president of the United States. Like Sen. McCain, Gov. Palin shows little or no respect for the observance of Juneteenth Independence Day in America. Juneteenth is an official state holiday observance in Alaska which requires the Governor to issue an annual proclamation. Despite the statute, Gov. Palin did not issue a Juneteenth Proclamation in 2007.

Gov. Palin still refuses to meet with African-American leaders of the Ministers Alliance to discuss job opportunities for African-Americans during the building of the Alaskan pipeline. Again, in my opinion, if elected to the White House, most likely her actions toward African-Americans will not change. Let African-American leaders in Alaska tell their own story about Gov. Palin. I have spoken to several of them and remain quite concerned about what I am hearing.

Juneteenth is America’s 2nd Independence Day celebration. 29 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or state holiday observance, as well as the Congress of the United States.

Together we will see Juneteenth become a national holiday in America!

“DOC”
Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D.
Chairman
National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign
National Juneteenth Observance Foundation (NJOF)
National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council (NJCLC)
www.Juneteenth.us
www.19thofJune.com
www.njclc.com
www.JuneteenthJazz.com

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