On March 31 I called for the resignation of Sharron Cooks from Philadelphia’s Commission of LGBTQ Affairs for espousing racist beliefs on her Facebook page. Cooks became the first transgender women to chair a city commission, yet she did so with great controversy.
As you remember, I called Cooks out after she posted this comment, “If you take ‘one drop’ of any person of color’s blood and combined that with blood of non-people of color, you’ll always be able to tell. Which illustrates our superior genetics.”
In another post Cooks wrote, “Truth be told white girl you only got your slot (on the commission) because you used to be an Assistant City Solicitor.”
Natalie Hope McDonald wrote in PhillyVoice.com that according to Amber Hikes, executive director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, allegations surfaced that Cooks was “viciously lashing out at others with prejudiced, biphobic and educationally elite attacks.”
On Tuesday night, in an emergency meeting called by Cooks to address the commission’s concerns and complaints from the last several weeks about Cooks herself, the commission voted 13-3, with three abstentions to remove Cooks as chair.
After the vote of the commission to remove Cooks from leadership she decided to resign from the commission completely.
According to McDonald, “relations became heated between Cooks and the commissioners as recently as Sunday when she sent a mass email targeting at least one member of the commission and questioned criticism about her own conduct, according to emails shared with PhillyVoice.”
Now that Cooks is finally off the commission we are hearing from Mayor Kenney on the issue.
In a statement, Kenney said, “Over the past several weeks a number of commissioners began raising concerns about comments being made by the Chair Sharron Cooks at meetings and on her social media channels that were creating an unwelcoming environment,” the statement said. “Some of these comments attacked fellow commissioners based on their race, sexual orientation and education level. At various points, the administration made clear that given its commitment to diversity and inclusion, commission members making offensive comments about other members’ race, gender identity or sexual orientation was unacceptable and therefore complaints of that activity would need to be taken seriously. The chair, selected by a majority vote on the commission in April, suggested an emergency meeting to discuss commission concerns and these complaints,” the statement continued. “The commission, supported by the Office of LGBT Affairs, worked swiftly to institute of a clear process for considering these complaints, which led to the commission’s vote last night.”
In an exclusive statement made to Philadelphia Magazine, Cooks plays the victim well when she writes, “My entire career in activism and leadership was narrowed down by several social media posts some commission members described as ‘the worst thing they have ever seen.’ I was accused of making a cisgender white woman feel ‘unsafe.’ I was accused of ‘attacking’ the white race and accused of ‘attacking’ the bisexual community. I, a black transgender woman, was accused of being a racist by a white cisgender gay man [that’s me!], called the n-word, and harassed by local LGBTQ reporters regarding my commitment to equality and being attacked because of my race.”
She opines, “It saddens me greatly that after making history, twice in less than a year, for the entire LGBTQ community, especially transgender women of color, once as a Democratic National Convention delegate for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and then becoming the first-ever transgender person to chair a citywide commission, my leadership ability was reduced to several social media posts by the Office of LGBT Affairs and the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs.”
I applaud the commission for taking decisive action to protect the integrity of their charge. And to Amber Hikes and Mayor Kenney, while I wish they would have acted sooner when this was first brought to their attention, just by the fact they finally saw the writing on the wall and agreed the Sharron Cooks was the wrong person for the job, I applaud them as well.
Racism, prejudice and phobias are not welcome in our community, and may the lesson of Sharron Cooks stay with us.