Controversial comments made by county commissioner are caught on camera

Published: May. 14, 2014 at 9:58 AM CDT|Updated: May. 15, 2014 at 10:26 PM CDT
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Commissioner Brooks fired back.
Commissioner Brooks fired back.
The discussion prompted a comment from Memphian Pablo Pereira.
The discussion prompted a comment from Memphian Pablo Pereira.

(WMC) – Shelby County Commissioner Henri Brooks was caught on camera making seemingly racial comments during Monday's meeting.

The discussion started over a bid to a construction company for a roof repair on a county building.

According to commissioners, although the company employs predominantly minorities, those minorities are mostly Hispanic, with just a few African-Americans. Some county commissioners wanted to know whether that violates any EEOC laws. Others say, a minority is a minority.

Commissioner Henri Brooks voiced her concern for choosing a company that hires mostly Hispanics. Her comments did not sit well with Commissioner Terry Roland.

"You're gonna violate this companies' rights because they have more of one minority than another?" he said.

The discussion prompted a comment from Memphian Pablo Pereira.

"Are we gonna have a sign that says Hispanics need not apply? I am charged with bringing jobs, with bringing people to Memphis and Shelby County. Should I say, 'Please turn around?'" Pereira said. "'Because your services are not needed because you're Hispanic, you're a minority you're not welcome?'"

Pereira went on to say Hispanics in Memphis are the minority of the minority.

"I know what it's like to be a minority. I grew up in Memphis and I can tell you, being Hispanic is definitely the minority of the minority."

Commissioner Brooks fired back.

"Your situation does not compare to mine. What you are experiencing as a minority has probably been blown out of proportion here. It's not about you as a minority. It's about black folk in Shelby County who are trying to get employment in Shelby County … people who pay taxes. Not to say that you don't," she said.

Commissioner Brooks went on to say, "And let me say one last thing. You asked to come here. You asked to come here; we did not. And when we got here, our condition was so egregious, so barbaric … don't ever let that come out of your mouth again 'cause you know what? That only hurts your case. Don't compare the two; they're not comparable."

The county commission ended up approving the roofing contract, but the community is still talking about what was said at the meeting.

La Prensa Latina editor Vivian Fernandez-de-Adamson says the comments made do not sit well with Hispanics.

"It is very frustrating, I understand that the majority of the population is African-American, but the Hispanic community is growing as well," she said. "We just want to live together with everybody and co-exist."

Brooks is running for Shelby County Juvenile Court Clerk. Fernandez-de-Adamson says that is discouraging, too.

"Maybe she wants to get the African-American's vote and I can understand that, but it's not the way to do that," she added.

NAACP and Latino Memphis held news conference on Thursday morning to respond to Commissioner Brooks' comments. Read about the conference here:

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