As Black Mayor Handles Bridge Tragedy, Racists Blow Dog Whistle

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – MARCH 26: Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott talks with the media after a cargo ship ran into and collapsed the Francis Scott Key Bridge on March 26, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. According to reports, rescuers are still searching for multiple people, while two survivors have been pulled from the Patapsco River. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

by Joseph Williams

America’s anti-DEI crusaders — or, more accurately, the nation’s shameless racists and unabashed white supremacists who want to say the N-word publicly but don’t have the guts — are at it again. 

Hours after the Francis Scott Key Bridge disaster unfolded in his city, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott appeared with fire department and rescue squad commanders for a press conference. As rescue divers continued searching the frigid Patapsco River for possible survivors, Scott appeared shaken as he began his remarks, carried on live TV nationwide. 

“This is an unthinkable tragedy,” Scott, 39 and the youngest Black mayor in Baltimore history, told reporters. “We have to first and foremost pray for all of those who are impacted, those families, pray for our first responders and thank them. We have to be thinking about the families and people impacted. We have to try to find them safe.” 

Maybe it was the fact that Scott is a young Black man with a neatly trimmed beard and modest Afro. Perhaps it was the fact that he was wearing a baseball jacket with the seal of Baltimore and his name embroidered on it. It could have been Scott’s unscripted, heart-on-his-sleeve concern for the road repair crew that vanished into dark, frigid waters when a cargo ship veered into and knocked down the bridge.

Regardless of the reason, Scott’s TV appearance triggered multiple bigots on X, formerly known as Twitter, who decided to drag the mayor for no clear reason. One of the most popular posts declared that the Black man leading Charm City through crisis is, in their opinion, a “DEI Mayor,” whatever that means: 

The nonsensical tweet by @iamyesyouareno — what is a DEI mayor anyway? Why are things going to get worse? What’s up with that X handle? — immediately began trending, racking up nearly 10,000 likes and more than 7,000 shares at last count. 

Other like-minded people put on their tinfoil hats and quickly jumped in, drawing imaginary lines between DEI programs and the Key Bridge disaster, the company that owns the ship that hit the bridge, Baltimore’s crime rate, and even how well the Port of Baltimore is managed.

It’s clear from the thousands of angry responses to those tweets that those on the left see DEI as the new “woke,” which became shorthand for efforts in schools or the workplace to eliminate racism and level the playing field for Black people. 

To their credit, dozens of respondents called out the writers of those tweets as racists, while dozens more suggested they get real with themselves and use the “N-word” next time. 

At this moment, authorities don’t know exactly why the massive cargo ship Dali lost control and slammed into the Key Bridge, sending six workers to all but certain death. But it’s safe to say that DEI didn’t build the bridge, didn’t load the ship, and wasn’t steering it when it veered into the Key Bridge support pillar at 1:30 EDT Tuesday morning. DEI didn’t even elect Scott, a native Baltimorean, in the 2020 mayoral race: more than 70% of Baltimore voters did. 

DEI tweets aside, Scott — who went to high school in Baltimore and returned after college to become one of the youngest members of the city council in history — has checked all the right boxes for a big-city mayor managing a catastrophe so far. In public and written statements, he has shown leadership, empathy, and concern for the victims as well as first responders. He has also kept the city informed through his social media accounts. 

And his love for the city has come through. 

“My heart is with those families tonight and in the days ahead,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to those who lost loved ones in the bridge collapse. “Let us wrap our arms around them and our entire community. Baltimore, we will get through this together.”