On Apologies and Misogyny
This was the statement that I prepared to offer to the Board of Aldermen in efforts to put all of the events of the last few months behind us and return to the business of the people. I was not allowed to finish my statement. I am publishing it online under the request of constituents.
After the Alderman from the 23rd Ward threatened legal action in the Post-Dispatch, my legal council recommended that I not attend the hearing on Wednesday. Thus, I didn’t. At the hearing, I would have been asked to give testamentary evidence without the legal safeguards that would have been in effect if a subpoena had been issued. That is the only reason that I did not testify. Now that the hearings are behind us, I feel that I need to speak freely in order to clarify my thoughts and actions so we can move forward.
Some Aldermen feel that I owe this Board an apology. What I shall do today is break my silence, make clear what I am sorry for, and indicate what actions I can commit to going forward. I also want to make a couple of requests of the Board of Aldermen.
First, I want to apologize to Alderman Moore, as I understand he felt personally attacked by my comments. It was never my intent to implicate Alderman Moore in anything nefarious. My only intent was to refer to his testimony in the December 11th Ways and Means committee meeting. From his statements, I felt that his personal experiences lent credibility to the claim that something questionable might be was going on. My sincere apologies if Alderman Moore felt personally attacked by my statements.
I also recognize that some African-American Aldermen feel that some of my statements had racial undertones. Again, my apologies if this is how they were perceived, as that was never the intent. In fact, I was shocked and horrified that my words were taken in that manner. Achieving racial justice in St. Louis was the main reason I ran for office in the first place. I believe that, for the first time, we have a real opportunity to form a North-South partnership in St. Louis. I maintain my commitment to fighting for racial justice and supporting the agenda of the Black Caucus. In sum, I take responsibility for my statements and the repercussions they may have had. In the future, I will choose words that reflect what is in my heart and that cannot be perceived or interpreted in a way that will cause hurt to anyone. I hope the Aldermen will accept this as my apology.
I also recognize that by critiquing the body of the Board of Aldermen, several Aldermen feel that I owe the body as a whole an apology. I do not accept this as true. To quote JFK, “Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed and no republic can survive.” I believe the same is true for the Board of Aldermen. We must not be afraid to look in the mirror and recognize that we can always improve. It is possible to love the people you serve with while also critiquing the system in which we operate. I am unapologetic in thinking that we owe it to the people of St. Louis to continually critique ourselves in order to produce a more open, honest, accountable, and transparent government for the people of the City of St. Louis.
In following JFK’s example, I will spend our upcoming recess working on a comprehensive strategy for ethics reform for the Board of Aldermen. I’ve already had conversations with some Aldermen about how we can improve our processes. I invite others to join in the conversation, and hope that the silver lining in all of this will be a commitment to comprehensive ethics reform, improved communication, and evaluating how we can make government more open and transparent.
(This is where testimony was cut off)
I’d also like to speak from a personal point of view about a double standard that I have felt existed throughout the entire process, whether intended or not. It has come to my attention that on at least four occasions over the last several years male Aldermen have made statements similar to mine about legalized bribery, hush money, or pay-to-play politics. In none of these cases have we had hearings, threatened censure or legal action, or had the FBI show up at their door. I have to ask what is different? (For the record, I never contacted the FBI; they contacted me.)
We also have not pursued censure or a reprimand against the President of the Board after he participated in a thirty-minute interview and laughed while I was called a “bitch” no less than nine times and told I should be violated with Pinocchio’s nose. Having my friends and family hear this horrible rhetoric over the last week has been really hard. I am severely disappointed that President Reed did not speak out against the misogynistic comments that were being made. I am offended at his laughter, however “nervous” he wishes to call it in hindsight. I am disappointed that he would join in the conversation with untruths intended to defame my character and degrade my involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement, and I am furious that in the same interview he endorsed Mr. Romanik to run for State Representative, citing his “moral center.” Furthermore, I was equally angry to learn that two weeks after this horrific interview was taped, President Reed appeared on the show for a second time. An encore appearance is not the action of a person who found those statements to be “reprehensible.”
Then to top it off, after issuing a half-hearted apology for his friend’s behavior, President Reed’s chief of staff is quoted in the Post Dispatch as stating that “any apology is not an admission of doing something wrong.” I feel as if I’m in some dystopian future where these remarks are allowed to go unaddressed. I have to ask, though, what is different?
Allowing these types of conversations take place unchecked maintains a rape culture narrative of which we cannot be comfortable. I recognize that this issue is bigger than me, bigger than the Board of Alderman, and it’s important that we have these conversations. Again this week we had a member of the General Assembly resign over improprieties. Every few months it seems we have elected officials are the State and Federal level resign over misconduct involving the treatment of women. I would ask the Board to examine the implications of misogyny at the Board and work toward a system in which men and women are held to equal standards.
I also want to make it clear that I’m not saying that we should take the time to reprimand President Reed. I’m confident that the voters of the City will hold him accountable in the next election. I think we have much more important business of the people to attend to than to use the powers of this Board to wage personal vendettas. What I am asking for, though, is for us to hold everyone to the same equally high standards, and if we are not doing that, have the willingness to ask why?
I’m here to serve the people. I expect to be called out if I am not serving them well. For better or worse, I have a very vocal constituency that holds me accountable and has an expectation that I will be equally vocal. I’ve been humbled by the outpouring of support over the last several months from the 15th Ward and beyond. I look forward to getting back to working for a People’s Agenda.
Megan-Ellyia Green is Alderwoman for the 15th Ward in the City of St. Louis