Halloween Night Image, Posted Online, Implied Blackface

Halloween Night Image, Posted Online, Implied Blackface

 New Haven Mayoral candidate shared maligned picture

On Halloween night, New Haven mayoral candidate and East Allen Community Schools (EACS) Board President Bob Nelson posted a photograph to his Facebook page standing next to a young woman seemingly adorned in blackface; he was dressed up as President Donald Trump.  The image has since been deleted but not before attracting the attention of the national social media and press.  Since the posting, the grandmother of the young woman has come forward to explain the supposed blackface: The granddaughter was apparently dressed as a shadow of the grandmother, but it is worth noting that only Nelson and the young woman are visible in the image. 

The 2019 mayoral candidate provided a statement to the Fort Wayne Ink Spot Newspaper (the same statement was also published in the Journal Gazette):  “In my 61 years, I have never been called a racist. Those who know me, know my heart. I do not now or never will condone the use of blackface or any other racially sensitive action.”

According to reporting by Ashley Sloboda from the Journal Gazette, on Tuesday, November 13, EACS board member Paulette Nellems publicly called for Nelson’s resignation while asserting he violated the Indiana School Boards Association’s code of ethics.

Nellums, as reported by the Journal Gazette, stated: “To dress up as the president of the United States – first, I want to say [Nelson] has every right.  The Constitution gives us the right to freedom of speech and expression, but once you become a board member, a public figure, there is a code of ethics.  There's an expectation that we all should want from those who lead us.”

Nelson has no plans to resign his board presidency. 

The current New Haven mayor, Terry McDonald, has found himself in the familiar position of having to defend his city from charges of prejudice and racism.  McDonald became mayor in January 2000, after a 20-year stint in public safety.  “I’m just tired,” he said about his decision not to run for a sixth term, after an additional 20 years as mayor.

“I would be lying to you if I told you we didn’t have any prejudice in this town because I’ve heard it from people. And I’ve put them in their place,” said McDonald, who served with Nelson on an education committee and has never known him to make a racist statement.  He confronted Nelson about the image and has been encouraged by others to ask the candidate to withdraw his name from the mayoral race.  “I don’t think it’s my place to [do so]. I don’t want to interfere with the system.   I think the voters will make it clear.

“I wish he had been more forward thinking of what it could potentially look like,” said McDonald, who touted the more diverse population now living in the city since he took office, with American Indians, Hispanics, and Asians in addition to its black and white populace.  Although the overall population numbers across ethnic groups don’t bear it out, New Haven is more diverse.  As per numbers taken from the 2016 United States census, the city of New Haven boasted 362 African-American citizens; the city was still 98% white after the census count.  According to McDonald, when he took office in 2000, New Haven boasted a population of just under 12,500; today it sits at just over 15,400.

 Census numbers provided by the City of New Haven.