N.C. City Official Removed After Refusing to Address Black Professor as ‘Doctor’ in Viral Video
The former Greensboro, North Carolina zoning commissioner later said his comments were "out of line"
A North Carolina zoning commissioner who repeatedly ignored requests to address a Black woman who holds a doctorate as "Dr." was removed from his position amid criticism, according to local reports.
Dr. Carrie Rosario took part in a virtual Greensboro zoning meeting on April 20 with the goal of weighing in on a new development she feared might threaten her neighborhood's drinking water, The Lily reported.
Rosario, 38, is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and has a doctorate in public health, which she feels "adds legitimacy to what I'm saying," she told The Lily.
At the meeting — video of which was shared to YouTube by the Greensboro News & Record —then-zoning commissioner Tony Collins invited her to speak, at which point Rosario interrupted to correct him with, "It's Dr. Rosario, thank you."
Collins again referred to her as "Mrs. Rosario," and when she corrected him again, he replied, "Well, you know, I'm sorry. Your name said on here Carrie Rosario. Hey Carrie."
"I wouldn't call you Tony, so please, sir, call me as I would like to be called. That's how I identify—" she said, before Collins responded with, "It doesn't really matter."
At that point, Rosario said: "It matters to me, and out of respect, I would like you to call me by the name that I'm asking you to call me by … I'm verbalizing my name is Dr. Carrie Rosario. And it really speaks very negatively of you as a commissioner to be disrespectful."
The video clip of the exchange ended after Collins responded: "I'm not trying to be disrespectful, but you're negotiating something that happened four years ago."
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Just one day later, Collins was unanimously removed from his position during a City Council meeting, the News & Record reported.
During the meeting, Councilwoman Sharon Hightower, who is Black, criticized the exchange, and said it was a display of white privilege on Collins' part.
"This is ultimate disrespect of Black people by one that's white and feels entitled and privileged to say and behave whatever, with no consequences," she said during the meeting, part of which was shared to YouTube by the News & Record. "This is what we deal with as African-Americans. I get this regularly from other folk, so I know how this feels."
Rosario later said that she found the exchange "very frustrating," and that it was not the first time she'd faced such microaggressions.
"I introduced myself as Dr. Carrie Rosario intentionally because, as a Black woman, I often am dismissed in a lot of different spaces. Some of that is because I am young-looking," she told CBS affiliate WFMY. "It hurt, that I'm in this public forum trying to do right by my neighborhood, and advocate for our needs, and our voices, and hearing him, feeling disrespected and just belittled in front of the viewers of this live broadcast."
She told WFMY that Collins reached out on Wednesday to offer an apology, and that she later called him and left a voicemail saying she accepted his apology.
"I let him know I hold no ill will against Mr. Collins," she said. "This is an enlightening moment we can learn from."
Collins, a construction contractor and a partner in Collins & Gaylon General Contractors in Greensboro, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment, but told The Lily that his exchange with Rosario was "out of line."
"There is no good excuse for my interaction with Dr. Rosario so I will not try to offer one," he said. "Citizens deserve better."