Edwardsville mayor apologies for “blackface” photograph

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EDWARDSVILLE, IL - Edwardsville Mayor, Hal Patton, spoke to Fox2/News11 Wednesday about a controversial photo that has recently surfaced, showing him in a “blackface” Halloween costume 9 years ago.

Patton, who is white, is running for the state senate in Illinois.  Critics call the photo ‘racist’.

Patton gave this account:  the photo was from Halloween party that couples attended in companion costumes; his wife went as a stick of gum; he went as her “wrapper” and in a play on words dressed as a Hip-Hop musician; the “blackface” coloring was part of a costume kit.

“I do sincerely apologize and I regret it,” he said.  It’s a dumb idea.  It’s a very sensitive (issue)…it’s extremely disappointing to have people who don’t know me, see a picture like that, and automatically judge me.  I can see why they might do that.  I would wish they would take time to get to know me, what I’ve done for the community.”

Patton is an Edwardsville native and a long-time dentist in town.  He is in his second term as mayor after more serving more than 15 years on the Edwardsville City Council and Madison County Board.

He’s a Republican but was booted from the State Senate primary ballot because he had signed a re-election petition for a Democratic candidate for another office, which is against party rules.

He’s now collecting signatures for a third-party run.

John Cunningham, the head of the Edwardsville NAACP said in a statement: “We can all agree this represents poor judgment.  I believe the mayor will receive recrimination for this incident.  I believe we need not say more.”

“I am not a racially biased person.  I never have been and never will be,” Patton said.  “[It was a] terrible choice, my lesson has been learned, and it’s a harsh lesson.”

Patton suspects political opponents are behind the photo surfacing, now.  A spokesman for his Democratic opponent, Rachelle Aud Crowe, an assistant prosecutor for Madison County, said the photo did not come from her campaign.

She has released the following statement: 

“I was shocked to see this photo of Mayor Hal Patton in blackface. I’m not sure why he would ever think that wearing blackface is appropriate - it’s offensive and completely unacceptable. Blackface is racist, ignorant, and threatens the advancements we’ve made in the long fight for civil rights and equality.

"Elected officials should be held to the highest standard. They should be dedicated to serving the people they represent, not using stereotypes that divide us. Patton's actions don't represent our community and are a painful reminder that we have much more work to do in achieving full equality and overcoming harmful stereotypes.

"In response to this photo, Hal Patton has made excuses and deflected by attacking me. There is no excuse for blackface. Patton is circulating petitions to get on the ballot under the “Downstate United” party, but his actions don't represent Downstate values and only divide our community."


Patton posted this statement to his campaign website and Facebook page:

“Having served the public for almost twenty years as an Edwardsville Alderman, Madison County Board Member, and now as Mayor, I have been on the ballot ten different times and involved in many challenging races. So, nothing really surprises me in terms of the nasty tricks opponents will try. Typically, the more desperate the opponent, the lower they will go.

There have been threats to use this particular picture in my last three races. It was taken at an annual couples’ Halloween costume party where husband and wife try to pair their outfits. My wife was set on wearing a pink dress and wrapping it cellophane to look like a piece of bubble gum. My choices to pair up we’re going as a school desk or as a “wrapper”.  A rapper outfit with a microphone and face paint was chosen, not as a racial statement, but due to the fact that most rappers are African-American.

Looking back, it was a bad choice for an outfit. I regret it and apologize to those it offends. I never imagined it would be viewed as a racial image, much less saved by someone for nearly nine years before using it to impugn my character.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I do not judge people by their race or nationality. I grew up in a household that taught how to love others, not to hate them. My friends, former classmates, employees, dental patients, and current co-workers at the city would all confirm this. In my dental practice I care for people of many different races and backgrounds yet all my employees will tell you that we consider them family. At the City of Edwardsville, we have always hired the best candidate, and I am pleased to report that we have more minorities and females working for us than ever before. In fact, my last three appointments that I have recommended for the city council have been females.

I am saddened that I need to write about these things, but feel it is important for those who do not know me, to not judge my character from a Halloween costume. Moreover, I am sickened by and worried for the individual or individuals who would keep such a ridiculous picture for nine plus years and use it in such a cheap manor. If these persons or anyone would like to discuss any issue with me, I have always made myself available.

This is the second desperate act taken against me in this election cycle. Clearly, my opponent and her allies will use any methods, no matter how pathetic, to maintain power and control of our political system in Illinois. The more I get into trying to change the disfunction in Springfield, the more disgusted I get and the greater resolve I find.”

His signatures to get onto the ballot are due Monday.


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