North Carolina official ousted after not referring to black resident by her preferred title

City Council members in Greensboro, North Carolina, voted to remove a member of their zoning commission after an exchange he had with a woman who preferred to be called “Dr.”

“It was a very disrespectful exchange between an important commissioner and a public citizen,” said City Councilwoman Sharon Hightower, who called for the vote of removal. “That should never happen.”

The exchange started with resident Carrie Rosario addressing the zoning commission with concerns regarding a new development project near her home that she says was “approved with little to no information” after she had moved to the area.

Rosario, who has a doctorate in public health, was referred to as “Miss Rosario” by the commission’s chairman without objection when he first introduced her.

Upon introducing herself, Rosario said, “My name is Dr. Carrie Rosario.” She spent about 13 minutes explaining her concerns regarding traffic patterns and safe sidewalks for her family members due to the additional residents being added by the new development.

Zoning board member Tony Collins responded, saying the discussion had veered off course. “I think that we’ve kind of lost our way on what we’re talking about here. We’re here to approve the standards that have been presented. If Mrs. Rosario has something about one of those…” He said before being interrupted by Rosario.

“It’s Dr. Rosario, thank you Sir.” she said quickly.

Collins began where he left off before being interrupted, again referring to her as Mrs. Rosario.

She interrupted him again to say “Dr. Rosario” while shaking her head and smiling. Collins then says “Well, you know, I’m sorry. You’re name says Carrie Rosario, Hey Carrie.”

“It’s Dr. Rosario” she says again. “I would call you Tony, so please sir, uh, call me as I would like to be called. That’s how I identify.”

“It doesn’t really matter, we’re here to talk about,” Collins replies before Rosario interrupts.

“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, thank you,” she says.

“Your screen says Carrie Rosario,” Collins says in return.

“I’m verbalizing my name is Dr. Carrie Rosario. And it really speaks very negatively of you as a commissioner to be disrespectful.”

“I’m not trying to be disrespectful but you’re negotiating something that happened four years ago. We’ve taken on this function so this is not a zoning function this is a planning function and Mr. Chairman I think that if there’s something that she has something specific in these standards, let’s hear what it is.”

City Councilwoman Sharon Hightower told local media that she believes Collins was using his “white privilege” by not referring to Rosario as “Dr.”

“It is not going to be tolerated,” she said. “As a Black female, I am not going to see another Black female treated in this manner,” Hightower said.

“I tried to give him 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,” she said. “I was hurt, upset, angry — because this was a public forum — and the public should feel safe to be themselves, to present their concerns, and feel respected in the process,” Rosario said in an interview with local media after the exchange took place.

“I would love to say that people don’t operate off of appearances, but that has not been my experience,” Rosario said. “Black women, regardless of level of education, are consistently dismissed and overlooked or judged in our society.”

Rosario says she felt that “systemic racism” is what made her feel like she had “to use my title in the first place,” and also why she came well-prepared for her presentation “so as not to appear to be the stereotyped “angry Black woman.”

“I cannot judge what is in Mr. Collins’ heart, nor would I presume to, but I will say that racism as a system devalues and dismisses Black women — and Mr. Collins’ actions were evidence of the microaggressions that we face on a regular basis just trying to go about our daily lives,” Rosario added.

Watch the exchange here: