Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller’s comment on Facebook that she’s “white and proud of it” just hours after a woman protesting neo-Nazis and white nationalists in Charlottesville had been killed was offensive, inappropriate, crass and self-centered.
It’s not time to forget or accept what Miller said, but to instead move our attention and energy beyond her words and onto positive actions that fight discrimination, improve equality and create opportunity for all in Pima County.
We condemn Miller’s post, which read: “I’m sick and tired of being hit for being white. It is all about making us feel like we need to apologize. I am WHITE – and proud of it! No apologies necessary.”
No one is asking Miller to apologize for being white. Declaring pride in being white and acting like the victim when a white supremacist has just run over and killed an anti-racism protester? That merits an apology, but only if she understands the hurt she’s caused. Judging by her subsequent defensive comments on talk radio last week, she doesn’t get how her words could be interpreted as support for the white supremacists — or at the very least, seen as being dismissive and disrespectful of Heather Heyer, who was killed while speaking out against racism.
Still, and bearing all this in mind, we disagree with Supervisors Sharon Bronson, Richard Elias and Steve Christy about seeking guidance from the county attorney about what, if anything, the board can do to punish or censure Miller for her remarks.
Bronson and Elias said they’ll make public the attorney’s report on what’s possible, in response to public demands that Miller be held accountable for her offensive comments.
If the board has the power, it must be extremely cautious when seeking to mete out punishment over free speech — even if that speech is offensive.
Christy said he wants the county attorney to also weigh in on what the board could do about a county communications employee who, in a private Facebook group, crudely insulted Miller and urged people to criticize Miller for her opposition to Pima County’s ban on paid sexual orientation or gender-conversion therapy for minors. That employee has apologized to Miller and been disciplined. The board should not pursue further action in this situation, either.
No matter what, if anything, the Board of Supervisors could do, the most vital check on Miller’s behavior belongs to the voters of District 1.
Opponents could mount a recall and vote Miller out of office before her term is up in 2020 if they don’t want to wait until she’s up for re-election.
Miller should have the gumption to face her critics in person. She is elected by the voters, and she has an obligation to own her words — especially if she refuses to acknowledge her error.
Instead, she skipped the Monday morning Board of Supervisors meeting without explanation and missed the long line of county residents who stood to criticize her and call for her resignation or recall from office.
Avoiding the public is not the behavior of a proud elected official.