A Georgia mayor was feeling the heat after it was revealed that she rejected a Black man’s application because of his race. Now a city councilman has claimed she was doing the applicant a favor.
Theresa Kernerly, who is the mayor of Hoschton, Georgia, which is 50 miles northeast of Atlanta, pulled Keith Henry’s resume from a packet of four finalists for the city administrator position during a closed-door meeting in March. And just like that, Henry was no longer considered. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC), when asked why Henry was no longer a contender, Kernerly responded, “because he is black, and the city isn’t ready for this.”
Henry, who ended up accepting another job, said he was not aware of any obvious bias during his phone interview, but added that he was not surprised at the possibility.
“It comes with the territory,” he said. “If you live in America as a minority you can’t be naïve that it is the reality that you face.”
Meanwhile, Hoschton City Councilman Jim Cleveland defended the mayor’s actions and agreed that he did not believe the mostly-white community would react well to a Black executive government member.
“I understood where she was coming from,” Cleveland told the AJC. “I understand Theresa saying that, simply because we’re not Atlanta. Things are different here than they are 50 miles down the road.”
Cleveland also went on to say that he didn’t believe in interracial marriage and that it made his blood boil. He also wanted people to know he didn’t see his comments as racist.
“I’m a Christian and my Christian beliefs are you don’t do interracial marriage. That’s the way I was brought up and that’s the way I believe,” he said. “I have black friends, I hired black people. But when it comes to all this stuff you see on TV, when you see blacks and whites together, it makes my blood boil because that’s just not the way a Christian is supposed to live.”
Two other councilwomen were not so quick to support Kernerly and her racist statement. AJC reported that Hope Weeks and Susan Powers took the matter to the city attorney where the decision was made to allow Kernerly to be present during the hiring process, but not able to participate.
Though Kenerly initially did not confirm nor deny her actions to AJC, she eventually released a statement disputing the claims against her:
“I do not recall making the statement attributed to me regarding any applicant for the City Administrator position, and I deny that I made any statement that suggest (sic) prejudice,” she said.
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