SOMEBODY HAS TO SAY IT: She’s LaToya, You Called Her Name and She Said What She Said

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The video of New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell confronting a heckler while he sat at the bar of the Polo club lounge on Gravier Street is making the rounds. It seems that the Mayor was there, and this man spotted her and seized the opportunity to pretty much be an idiot.

As we understand it, the man disagreed with the decision to not call for a mandatory evacuation of areas inside the levee protection system as Hurricane Ida set southeast Louisiana in its crosshairs. Officials, including the Mayor, have publicly stated that they didn’t think there was enough time to make such a call. Now, we don’t take issue with the man in the video disagreeing with the mayor’s decision. To be sure, we don’t always agree with her. However, when we have disagreed with her and mayors before her, we have done so in a manner that reflects the respect that both the office and the person holding it deserve.

This was not the case. In fact, based on eyewitness accounts reported by local media, the man was irate, noisy, insolent, and downright rude in the manner in which he attempted to ridicule Mayor Cantrell. Reportedly he chose not to speak directly to her, but fully knew she was in the room, said her name repeatedly out loud as he voiced his consternation, and even blatantly and brazenly stared her down. He stared her down! Now if that was not some passive-aggressive, “Ken”-like behavior, we are not sure what is.

In other words, he was calling her out. But more than that, his passive-aggressive behavior was wrapped tight in white supremacy, which he probably thought would protect him from a response from the Mayor. But Mayor Cantrell was not having it, and we’re glad she did not let the man go unchecked.

Only a small snippet of the encounter is on video, and it just happens to be the part where Mayor Cantrell goes up to the man who had been very loudly vocalizing his criticism of her.

What this man obviously thought was that Mayor Cantrell was going to silently cower while he loudly disrespected her, maybe even quietly leave or possibly approach him with a big ol’ grin, all nice and calm, in an attempt to have some kumbaya moment with him. 

Boy, bye!

Instead and with all the boldness that the mayor of a major American city ought to possess, Mayor Cantrell went right up to this man and plainly told him that she was in the room, heard him call her name and speak about her derisively. She simply let him know what he certainly was already aware of — that she was LaToya Cantrell and if he had anything he needed to say to her, that was his chance.

He was saying something as the Mayor spoke to him, still trying to aggressively speak over her. But she was not having that either. It’s true, she hardly let him get a word in edge-wise. Quite frankly, we’re not concerned about what he said if he wasn’t going to apologize for being an ill-mannered ass, first, and then, directly and respectfully respond to the Mayor’s invitation to address her face-to-face in a manner that indicated he had some good sense.

In other words, he got checked . . . by the Mayor. He had it coming.

Yet, there are some who insist on attacking the Mayor’s response, calling it unprofessional and even calling her a bully. We know that the “angry Black woman” trope underpins those sentiments.

Well, somebody has to say it, so we will!

If Cantrell was an angry Black woman when she confronted “Ken”, she had every right to be. We’re not even going to get into an argument about whether this man, who happened to be white, would have been so rude and impertinent if the mayor had been a white man or even a white woman or if, let’s say, it was Gov. John Bel Edwards at the Polo Club on this particular day instead of the Black lady mayor. We’re not going to get into an argument about it because we know he wouldn’t have been so loud and lurid under different circumstances.

Nope, he would have sipped his lil’ cocktail and muttered under his breath if the mayor were a white man or white woman. But the mayor happens to be a Black woman. And what this “Ken” figured was that the liquid courage he was ingesting, along with the fact that he is a white man in America sanctioned him to publicly and loudly harangue a Black woman regardless of her title.

This is not some random supposition. It is an easy conclusion to make after 400 years of institutional racism, racial oppression, misogyny, and white supremacy. So, we’re not going to get into an argument about it because we know that even in 2021 Black women in America are still the most marginalized, disrespected, and disregarded individuals in this nation—so much so that it does not even matter if she is the ever-loving mayor. To this racist “Ken”, sitting on a barstool, the Mayor of the City of New Orleans was a Black woman that he could just stare down whenever he pleased.  

It’s clear to us that this pig of a man thought he could say whatever he wanted as loudly as he wanted about a Black woman and no one would call him on his bull, least of all her. But he was wrong.

Hell, we think she let them off easy. All she did was let “Ken” know that she didn’t appreciate him being so disrespectful in her presence and that if he had anything he wanted to say to her this was his chance.

One media report of the incident noted that witnesses claim no foul language was used during this encounter. Well, if foul language was a concern, it was a good thing he was talking about the Mayor and that it was the Mayor that confronted him.

Somebody has to say it, so we will. The publisher and editor of The New Orleans Tribune, both of whom happen to be Black women, have discussed the situation and come to the conclusion that had it been either of us, this man would have been shut down with every curse word in the English language on that day in the Polo Club. “Angry Black woman” stereotype be damned.

Matter of fact, we just checked our wrists. We got time today. So tired are we of the blatant disrespect and, often, violent disregard for Black womanhood in America, he would have gotten some pent-up, Black-woman rage that day in the Polo Club. He would have gotten a Sojourner Truth-Harriet Tubman-Rosa Parks-Fannie Lou Hamer-Sick-and-Tired-of Being Sick-and-Tired cussing out.

We would have laid into him for the dozens of times former First Lady Michelle Obama endured rude, racist, sexist, or plain ridiculous attacks. This Black woman was scrutinized and criticized by random White folk in the most unbelievable manner for no other reason than her race and gender.

We would have cursed him out for Tashonna Ward, the  25-year-old daycare teacher from Milwaukee who died last year after waiting for over two hours in the emergency room of Froedtert Hospital before leaving to find faster help. She collapsed and died shortly after because America’s healthcare system is prone to ignoring and discounting Black women even as they attempt to seek medical attention.

We would have railed on him in the name of Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old woman whose family has yet to see justice after police murdered her while she slept in her home during an illegitimate raid.

The list could go on as there is no shortage of examples of the disregard and disrespect Black women have endured in this nation.

So, “Ken” is lucky it was Mayor LaToya Cantrell he dared to dance with because we would have gone for his head and read him like the longest book ever written. By the time either of us was through with him, the next time he so much as saw a Black woman . . . forget staring her down. He would turn and run the other way.

But we like the way our Mayor handled it, too—a few assertive, bold statements to let “Ken” know that she was not going to shrink in silence while he disparaged her. And the only reason it’s on video is that she saw fit to check old boy in the same manner in which he attempted to flagrantly disrespect her—publicly.

What’s the problem?

As she puts it, she spoke up for herself; and that is something any mayor and every BLACK WOMAN has every right to do.

PERIOD.