Levelland’s Mayor Barbara Pinner received backlash from residents after sharing a Facebook post to her personal page containing racial slurs over the weekend. Tuesday night, residents gathered at city hall to have a conversation with the mayor about the post.
Tuesday night, the mood was tense at the meeting. Attendees took turns voicing their opinions over the post. One young man posed the question: “Would you read that post to us right now, face to face?”
The mayor’s response was simple: “No.”
The post she shared appears to be a letter written from the perspective of a dying Black man. In it, he shares negative views on Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin — two young Black men killed under controversial circumstances. It uses the N-word at least 20 times and even includes the term “untrained monkeys.” The fact-checking site Snopes.com has not been able to verify that this text was actually written by an older Black man. The site does say that the post has been in circulation since 2014, after the death of Michael Brown.
Several of the mayor’s constituents are now calling for her resignation. Daisy Gutierrez isn’t calling for her to resign, but the incident has definitely changed her mind about supporting the mayor she once voted for.
“You see racist people here and there and you just ignore it,” she said. “But coming from the mayor, it’s such a big hit because she’s looked up to. It’s sort of like, wow, who is really leading us here?”
Levelland native Darrell Phillips, who was also at the meeting shared his impression of the post. “[It starts with], ‘A former n*** wrote this,’” Phillips said. “That right there, I didn’t even read the post. I hadn’t even got past, ‘A former n*** wrote this…’ When I read that I was done with it.”
Pinner was elected in 2015 and is serving her second three-year term in office. After deleting the controversial post, she published an apology to her Facebook page. It read “This morning I shared a post written by an older-black-gentleman that I thought was very well written, but apparently several people have taken offense.”
She went on to dispute allegations that she is racist and apologizes if she offended anyone.
On Monday, she issued a formal apology for her actions and on Tuesday night held the closed-door meeting. Melanie Robins was there and said the mood of the room was dominated by the hurt from attendees, most of whom were Black.
“If you want to be racist in your home, that’s fine,” she said. “But when you affect me and mine, I’m not going to stand for that.”
Robins is also calling for the mayor to resign.
When the post first surfaced, and Robins came across it, she urged citizens to start calling the city to complain. Monday night, she received a call from the mayor, responding to her complaint. She tried to apologize to Robins. She asked what she could do to make things better. Robins’ response was for her to resign. Pinner refused.
“I have three questions for her,” Phillips said. “What was she trying to get out of this post? With African American constituents, what message were you relaying to them with this post? And what gave you comfort in releasing a post like this?”
Phillips was born and raised in Levelland. He and Robins grew up together. Like her, he lives in Lubbock now, but he’s still closely connected to his hometown. He said growing up in Levelland, he experienced a lot of racism. One incident sticks out in his memory. In 1981, when he was in high school, he recalls a pep rally for a game against Lubbock’s Estacado High School – a school attended predominantly by people of color. At a bonfire, students set fire to a black mannequin.
It was one of the first incidents that he experienced that showed him, “where you’re supposed to stand in Levelland.”
Manuel Mendez is a lifelong resident of Levelland. He served on both the city council and school board for a period of time. He’s known the mayor for many years. He even worked for her husband when he was 16.
Mendez agrees that the city has a problem with racism. He said it’s embedded in the community of over 13,000 and a lot of people don’t want to talk about it.
He gave an analogy. When talking about COVID-19, there are asymptomatic people. They don’t know they have it and you end up getting a lot of sick people.
“That’s what is,” Mendez said. “She doesn’t think she is racist in her own way but then for some reason it reared its ugly head.”
He said this event has uncovered her true colors.
Tuesday’s meeting ended abruptly with attendees demanding Pinner ‘s resignation and the mayor refusing. A few, including Robins, stormed out.
Robins said the group is dedicated to seeing Pinner removed from office and will pursue the next step in that process. Our reporters reached out to Mayor Pinner for a statement but did not receive a response by the time of broadcast.