When Councillor Sandy White said that she used the N-word for shock value, I took her at her word. In discussing it with others, I did wonder at why she used that particular derogatory word since her concern was about sexist, not racist, images on city buses. Still, I gave her the benefit of the doubt.
But the events of the last 24 hours suggest a far more sinister
explanation of her behaviour at council on Tuesday evening.
She had had stated, in the lead up to her now infamous outburst,
that someone on the London Transit Commission had said to her that
children liked the ad she wanted removed from the buses.
Although I have heard from a number of people that they find that
particular advertisement offensive and demeaning to women, I don’t
happen to agree. It’s actually quite funny, a bit of a spoof. I can
see myself as a ten year old giggling at it. Nevertheless, I can understand that not everyone would appreciate the humour. But making
it an issue to stake your political career on? Really?
And more importantly, deciding to quit because your viewpoint
didn’t win the day? If the issue had come to council and she hadn’t
gotten her way, would she have resigned from that too?
At the time, she didn’t identify who on the commission made
those remarks. But according to her, it was the last straw. “I’m
done,” she quoted herself as saying. “They like a lot of things.
They like drugs. They like alcohol. But do we put that on the side of
But now it turns out that the person who said this to her, that
kids like Katy Perry, was none other than Harold Usher, the only
black member on city council. So when she continued, “But if I
would’ve used words like nigger? Oh, then it would have made sense.
Or if we would have put the man’s penis on the side of the bus,
then it would have made sense.”
And indeed, it all makes sense to me now. She was getting even
with Usher for not supporting her. No wonder Usher couldn’t trust
himself to speak after the meeting.
This wasn’t a matter of standing on principle; it was a matter
of getting her own way and no means of retaliation was off limits
when anyone opposed her. The use of the N-word was deliberate, not
just for its shock value but also to humiliate the person at whom it
I stand by my statement of yesterday; White is not a racist. But
she is an opportunist. And as an opportunist she is prepared to use
racial epithets against her colleagues and to deflect the blame for
her behaviour to her daughter. Her beautiful black daughter, as she
On Thursday evening, she made a brief appearance in the Grand
Theatre’s fundraising play, The 39 Steps. Her part was a small one,
a political party functionary who was to introduce a campaigning
politician. The emcee for the event announced, as part of the play,
that White's character would say “a few choice words”. A ripple of laughter ran
through the audience.
That was following her late afternoon press conference at which
she had made yet another apology. With her she had an entourage of
black males, one of whom announced that “Sandy” would read her
statement but all questions would be directed to him.
He was Deeq Abdi, executive director of the African Community
Council and chair of the London Multicultural Community Association,
who has often come before city council to seek funds for various
social enterprises—a homework club, a multicultural economic
council, an immigrant incubation centre. For the last of these,
Abdi managed to obtain a $25,000 Trillium grant for a feasibility
study but still turned up at city hall to ask for “matching funds”
to complete the feasibility study. At the final budget meeting, White
did her level best to get that for him but suggested that the money
could be earmarked for a “business plan” once the
feasibility study is completed. That request, which received strong support from the mayor, was referred back to
And now, here was Abdi, acting as White’s press agent and
White began to read her prepared statement.
“First, let me apologize for the inappropriate use of a word at
a recent council meeting that is considered to be derogatory and the
misunderstanding that it has created. For that I am truly sorry.”
“Not acceptable,” someone yelled. White glared in his
But he was right. “Inappropriate use”? Is the N-word ever
appropriate? “Considered” to be derogatory? “Misunderstanding”?
That’s an apology?
Still, if she had stopped at that point, perhaps no harm would
have been done. Instead, she chose to continue with a justification.
It hadn’t been directed at anyone, she continued, and furthermore,
she had dedicated her life to social justice. Just ask anyone who
knows her. It was her dedication to social justice and equal
opportunity that led her to an overly passionate defence of her
departure from the LTC.
“Young women deserve a city in which we respectfully emulate
(sic) them in science and technology, in medicine, engineering and
any trade…” she read. But instead we hoist pictures of scantily
clad celebrities on the bus. She had meant well, had never intended
to hurt anyone. She loved the city and her family. She held up a
picture of her daughter to prove her point. She had just made a
“We politicians sometimes do that,” she acknowledged.
She was just like anybody else.
That was the end of the statement.
Then came the questions. Despite Abdi’s attempt to control the
conference, White could not contain her combativeness. When
confronted with Usher’s assertion that her derogatory epithet had
been hurled at him, White denied it but then burst out that Usher had
single-handedly been responsible for approving the ad and, although
she had apologized to him, he had never apologized for what he said to
her “as a woman.”
She accused LTC General Manager Larry DuCharme of stating publicly
that Usher was responsible for placing the ad. She had witnesses.
Later, DuCharme denied the accusation. That’s an administrative
responsibility. Commissioners don’t handle advertising.
About one-third of the LTC union members had also signed a
petition of complaint about the ad. It is unclear if the union
approached White or White approached the union about this issue. But
there were concerns that White had been undercutting the LTC’s
administration. That, however, was not discussed at the press
The press conference was over. Amid repeated calls for her
resignation, White left with her entourage in tow. It was the third
or fourth public apology.
But it’s not the last. Londoners have at least one more apology
in store from White when council meets again in a few weeks.
mayor has replaced zero tax increase with zero tolerance.