Charges of Racism, White Privilege Dominate Boulder City Council Meeting

Anger over a decision that sparked accusations of racism at the first meeting of the new Boulder City Council was renewed at last night’s meeting. KGNU’s Roz Brown reports that the selection last month of two white males for top leadership roles on council was again the focus of public comments.

Mirabai Nagle has been the center of a firestorm since the first meeting of the new city council last month. Nagle, elected in 2017 to a four-year term, spoke up last month after some residents urged council not to choose two white males for the top leadership positions on council.

Typically the selection of Boulder’s Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem is straightforward. Those who wish to serve give notice prior to the election, and this year incumbents Sam Weaver and Bob Yates said they were interested in the top and deputy positions. But prior to the vote, several public speakers argued that choosing two white, property-owning males in 2019 did not reflect Boulder’s stated goal of being more inclusive. Nagle felt compelled to respond.

“This might not be popular but we’re sitting here talking about ‘white males,’” began Nagle. “I’m guessing you two have different backgrounds in terms of your race. I’m pretty you sure you were born in different states, have different income levels, have different values, attended different schools. I’m a white female, but I’m also Jewish. You guys have pigmentation and genders you can’t help, but you’re being lumped into the ‘white male.’ Every single race on this planet has had something horrible happen to them at some point in our history so for us to be lumping you into the white male category – I’m sorry, I’ve had it, it’s obnoxious – you have completely different backgrounds.”

After a bit more discussion, council unanimously voted for Weaver as Mayor and Yates as Mayor Pro Team. But since her remarks, the Boulder Daily Camera devoted an entire editorial to the conflict, calling Nagle’s remarks “ignorant” and “repugnant” and suggesting she did not recognize her own white privilege. Nagle responded to the criticism in her own opinion piece in Sunday’s newspaper, but that did not stop another round of criticism at last night’s meeting.

“As a mother of two children of color I want to say I have no problem with Sam and Bob being mayor and mayor pro tem,” said Shawn Rodda. “But you didn’t say that did you? You went on a rant, denying white privilege and denying the racism so many of experience daily.”

In defense of Nagle, Suzanne De Lucia thanked the councilwoman for trying to bring wisdom and reason to the situation.

“I know an ‘old white boys’ club’ when I see it, but I don’t think that’s going on here, and I have not seen the racism in councilwoman Nagle that others are expressing,” said De Lucia.

Following the public hearing, councilmember Mark Wallach also said he didn’t believe his colleague was racist.

“In Boulder we rightfully emphasize the values of diversity, inclusivity and equity,” said Wallach. “But we also need respect, kindness and grace, and unfortunately too many comments tonight did not include those values.”

Nearly all councilmembers chimed in on the issue, but Nagle remained silent throughout the long discussion.