Lakeland, Florida utility board member Steve Wade seems to have forgotten that describing African-Americans as “animals” and suggesting that African-American teen girls do nothing but get knocked up constantly isn’t exactly the best career move — but while he says he used the “wrong word,” he stands by his claims.
In a September 4 budget meeting, Wade said that Northwest Lakeland has a bit of a black problem. “Here in Lakeland we’re seeing everything,” Wade said. “Our black community in the northwest section — not just the gangs, but just a culture that has really gone backwards, almost like animals.”
He continued, “It’s not just the gang problem, it’s the teenage girls. We’ve got to get them to say no and quit having these babies. The culture in that community is spreading into other parts of Lakeland.”
The Ledger notes that, since 2009, the teen birth rate has declined from 59 births per 1,000 to 37 births per 1,000 among 15 to 19-year-old girls in Polk County, Florida.
Wade offered no facts and figures for his claims, but he did later “apologize.” “When I used the word that I used and I apologize for that,” Wade said. “As soon as it came out of my mouth. I knew that was wrong.”
However, he says that aside from the use of the word “animals,” his assessment is spot-on. “Except for me using the word animals, everything else was true,” Wade said. “They aren’t acting like human beings should be acting.”
On Friday, the Utility Committee voted 3-0 to recommend that Mayor Howard Wiggs speak with Wade about his remarks.
African-American Commissioner Phillip Walker disagrees wholeheartedly with Wade’s assessment. “We don’t have animals living out there,” Walker said. “I live out there, and I don’t consider myself an animal.