A zoning commissioner in Greensboro, North Carolina has been voted out of his position after refusing to acknowledge a Black woman by her appropriate title during a public meeting Monday.
Tony Collins, the now-former commissioner, refused to refer to Carrie Rosario, who has a doctorate in public health, with the preferred title of “Dr,” according to the Charlotte Observer.
The incident took place during a virtual zoning commission meeting when Rosario, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, spoke about her concerns about a development project adjacent to her home.
Towards the end of the four-hour meeting, Collins, a partner at Collins & Galyon General Contractors, addressed Rosario as “Mrs. Rosario,” despite her request to be addressed as “Dr. Rosario.”
Rosario corrected him saying, “It’s Dr. Rosario, thank you.”
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Collins then said, “Mrs. Rosario.” Again, Rosario reminded him to call her “Dr. Rosario.”
After this, Collins stated that the name listed on the virtual call read Carrie Rosario, then referred to her as “Carrie.”
Again, she said, “Please, sir, call me as I would like to be called. That’s why I identify myself.”
When Collins tried to dismiss her request by saying it doesn’t matter, 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.”
When Collins repeated that she’s listed as Carrie Rosario, she replied that she was “verbalizing” her name as “Dr. Carrie Rosario.” She then called out Collins for his rudeness.
“And it really speaks very negatively as a commissioner to be disrespectful,” she said.
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Rosario stated that she was “hurt, upset, angry” that Collins had treated her this way. Earlier in the same meeting, Rosario corrected another attendee saying that she was to be called “Dr. Rosario,” to which that attendee apologized and accepted.
“I tried to give [Collins] the benefit of the doubt at first and corrected him, but as the exchange unfolded it was clear that he was intent on disrespecting me,” Rosario said.
On Tuesday, one day after the exchange, a recording of the virtual meeting was played before the Greensboro City Council meeting. The body then voted unanimously to remove Collins, who was under term until 2023, as zoning commissioner.
“It was a very disrespectful exchange between an important commissioner and a public citizen,” said Sharon Hightower, a Black councilwoman who called for the vote. “That should never happen.”
According to Rhino News, Collins called Rosario to apologize after the incident and left her a voice message. He wrote a formal apology letter addressed to the Greensboro City Council accepting his removal.
“I agree with you that my exchange with Dr. Rosario was out of line and accept your judgment to remove me from the commission,” Collins wrote. “There is no good excuse for my interaction with Dr. Rosario so I will not try to offer one. Citizens deserve better. I would never want to bring any harm to the City of Greensboro or to any of our citizens. I failed to live up to my own standards and to yours. I regret that sincerely.”
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