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MATTHES APOLOGY TOUR: Defenders, detractors line up over CoMo city manager racial slurs

"I think you need to appoint a babysitter"

COLUMBIA, Mo 1/22/18 (Beat Byte) -- Facing a public relations firestorm, Columbia city manager Mike Matthes (left) has apologized for remarks he made during the Columbia Values Diversity breakfast.

The apology comes with a caveat about "difficult race conversations" his defenders have seconded. 

Detractors, meanwhile, continue labeling his presentation racist, with one Columbia resident telling the City Council Matthes needs a "babysitter." 

In his January 11 lecture before a thousand-person crowd, the city manager used old-school racial stereotypes, from the "angry black man" to the threatening "thug," to describe a social media selfie montage of five young black persons (below).  They made him "an uncomfortable white man," Matthes explained.  

"I understand some people were offended and for that I am sorry," he said later. "I did not intend to hurt anyone.  I hope people understand these conversations about race can be difficult.”  Matthes says he wants to meet with people upset with the presentation.  It is unclear whether his remarks were in a prepared statement or exclusive to one publication. 

Detractors and defenders have been lining up since this publication first reported the Matthes presentation's unsavory elements.

"The Heart Beat is a trash site and continues to show no interest in being anything other than a trash site," Columbia Business Times managing editor Matt Patston Tweeted about the story, which garnered nearly 30,000 reads and 1,300 Facebook "likes." 
 
"Matthes is getting taken way, way, way out of context," Patston continued, asking why this publication did not "reach out to Matthes for further context.  Why not...reach out for further comment?"   

Neither the Columbia Missourian nor Riverfront Times "reached out" to Matthes for their stories. 

Matthes' comments about the need to bathe before a job interview, despite referencing his own experiences as a teenage job seeker, "became muddled and, in the context of his speech about black unemployment, condescending," Riverfront Times columnist Danny Wicentowski wrote.  "The implication that lingered was that young black job-seekers needed to be told to take baths."  
 
"I have grave reservations about city manager Matthes, especially after his presentation at the Columbia Values Diversity breakfast," Rachel Taylor told the City Council at its Tuesday meeting.  "It showed an insensitivity to people of color, racial illiteracy, and an inability to read his audience." 

The photo montage portion of Matthes' presentation was "deeply racist," Taylor continued.  "It offended many of the people in attendance.  I think you need to appoint a babysitter if he's gonna lead" the new community policing effort. 
 
Matthes' most powerful defenders may be members of the Columbia City Council.  "Defending Matthes was Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas, who said he believes the city manager was trying to say that stereotypes exist but should not," Caitlin Campbell reported

Thomas and First Ward Councilman Clyde Ruffin seconded Matthes' remarks about the "difficulty of race conversations."
 
"When people are confronted by difficult issues they will have differing opinions about how and when to address them," Ruffin told Campbell.  "He said he applauds the city manager’s honesty and courage to share his heart and vision for Columbia." 

The "immediate criticism and condemnation" that often follows discussions of racial bias "frustrates" Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala.  "That excoriation tends to discourage any productive conversations," he told Race Matters, Friends organizer Traci Wilson-Kleekamp during a Facebook argument yesterday

The only Council member who has publicly criticized Matthes over the presentation is Mayor Brian Treece, who told Campbell he found the comments "embarassing," and is not sure an apology is sufficient. 

Treece also said the comments do not reflect the values of the city of Columbia.
 
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