I feel compelled to respond to Councilmember Butt’s comment, quoted in the West County Times on March 7, 2014, in which he implied that public housing residents’ expectations of safe and habitable apartments was akin to expecting “maid service.”
I am appalled and disgusted by the arrogance, condescension and outright contempt expressed in this comment. Mr. Butt appears to care more about buildings than about people and has absolutely no clue what it is like to live in this society as a poor, disabled, dis-empowered person. It is unacceptable to me that someone with such attitudes should sit on our City Council. Mr. Butt needs to apologize to the residents of Public Housing and the people of Richmond.
But he needs to do more than just say he is sorry for “misspeaking” which seems to be the common politician’s response when their unconsidered words reveal attitudes of bigotry that they usually try to hide. He needs to do a living amends and begin a process to work towards gaining some humility and understanding that he has no right to judge others whose life experience he has no way to understand. I doubt he has ever experienced what it is like to be poor, oppressed, and treated with contempt on a daily basis. He should start his reeducation by moving into Richmond Public Housing and living there, perhaps indefinitely. His experience would not be equivalent to his neighbors, though. He has white, upper middle class privilege and education and would know that his stay was only temporary. He’d know that if things got really bad his complaints and requests for maintenance would be responded to, unlike his neighbors. But maybe, maybe, he might start to conceive a glimmer of understanding that he doesn’t know everything and doesn’t have a right to judge and rule over other people.