St. Louis Oracle

St. Louis-based political forecasting plus commentary on politics and events from a grassroots veteran with a mature, progressive anti-establishment perspective.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Marshall’s AIDS stance embarrasses Greens

Green Party mayoral candidate Willie Marshall’s quest to unite progressive St. Louisans against its conservative, pro-business mayor in the April general election has encountered a new, unexpected obstacle: Marshall himself.

The trouble started at a February 7 candidate forum, when Marshall reputedly told the audience that he would protect the public against the spread of AIDS by requiring AIDS patients to wear identifying bracelets. This statement became great fodder for morning radio programs.

Two days later, Marshall appeared live on KWMU’s “St. Louis on the Air” hosted by St. Louis American editor Alvin Reid. A sympathetic caller gave Marshall the opportunity to deny, disclaim or explain his statement, but Marshall’s rambling and insensitive response only made things worse. He admitted making the statement, but suggested he wouldn’t have said it to that audience if he had known they would have reacted negatively. He suggested that the reaction would have been different if the “broader community” had made the same recommendation (Marshall is African American). He didn’t reject the position until prompted by a follow-up question, and then said he did so because people told him it wasn’t a good idea and that he shouldn’t have said it.

Many Greens are embarrassed. In addition to being just plain wrong, Marshall’s statements are also directly at odds with the Green Party’s key values of social justice and respect for diversity. His “ungreen” statements and apparent underlying attitudes detract from the genuinely progressive platform anticipated from Marshall on matters on which Greens are in agreement, such as ending the abuse of eminent domain to benefit special business interests; the need for a civilian oversight board; betterment of St. Louis Public Schools; and environmental issues like dealing with the lead poisoning crisis and ending the city’s indiscriminate spraying of toxic pesticides. It would be a shame if Marshall’s gaffe provided the necessary excuse for the mayor to avoid discussion of those vital issues.

Just in case the Oracle misunderstood Marshall, here is a verbatim transcript of that portion of Marshall’s appearance on KWMU. (You can hear the live audio for yourself on Windows Media Player (required) by clicking here, then clicking “Listen” and fast-forwarding to the 14:21 mark):

Caller: I'd like to give Mr. Marshall a chance to respond to a radio report I heard yesterday on one of the commercial stations. It was reporting on a candidate forum, and it quoted Mr. Marshall as saying that AIDS patients should be required to wear identifying bracelets. I'd like to give Mr. Marshall a chance to clarify his views on that subject.

Marshall: I certainly will. Well, I was on the spot, and I didn't know this was going to be an AIDS-sponsored forum, and so I was on the spot when the question came up, and I just thought to myself, well, there are people who have to wear medic alert bracelets, that is, people who have diabetes and hemophilia, and I'm thinkin' well, if that's not a problem with them wearing their bracelets and they have an illness, what would be the problem, and so after I thought about it for a second I responded that they should wear -- people should be made to wear bracelets, as an identifier, maybe an ankle bracelet, because right now you don't know who you're gamblin' with, and if you don't use protection you're subject to get AIDS. And what happens is, white people define Africans in America's social, economic, health, religion and everything else that has to do with the construction of our reality, and so a few years from now if you find that the broader community would say, yes, we're going to have to stop this, and so we're going to have to make people wear bracelets, some kind of an alert bracelet, then don't be surprised, because right now I'm concerned about my children, and I'm concerned about the closing of clinics and hos--if Homer G. Phillips was open, that would have helped hold down this ravishing effect that this AIDS epidemic is having in north St. Louis, and black people all over the country. St. Louis is a microcosm of the other urban centers, all over the city. So that is why I responded in that respect, because I know that people do wear medic alert bracelets, and I hope that that would take care of that. I'm not saying to add a stigma to people who are already stigmatized in the first place, but just as a precaution for preventing the spread of AIDS, and I've talked to other people since then, and they understand my response to that question.

Caller: But you would require them to do that?

Marshall: No, no, no. I said, I said that off the top of my head in response to the question, and I've spoken with other people since that time who heard the same report that you did, and I would reject that, because I've talked to people who are directly affected with AIDS, and they said it wasn't a good idea and that I shouldn't have said it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't care that Marshall was speaking off the top of his head. As a candidate he should be well versed in issues of importance, particularly to his community. When I heard this I was aghast that this would come out of the mouth of a Green. I thought the Greens were more progressive than this. A comment like this is more in line with Fred Phelps or someone else on the right.

March 4, 2005 at 6:51 AM  
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