Update| Here's a response Peter Steinbrueck sent us from Denver, where he's speaking at an architecture conference:
"My intent was to draw attention to the importance of Juneteenth and to an African American author and political activist of the period. Charles Chesnutt was one of the most interesting and thought-provoking authors of his day. His novels and short essays explore the complexities of race and society in the south after the Civil War. I read the passage the way it was written, to an audience of readers and book-lovers. If it makes people uncomfortable, then we should be talking about it."
In case you’ve missed the hubbub, at an event hosted at Seattle Public Library, mayoral candidates were asked to read a passage from their favorite book; Steinbrueck chose a passage from the “The Conjure Woman,” which included dialog from a former slave that was written in dialect. (Fast forward to minute 98 on the clip above to hear it for yourself.)
It appears to be classic gaffe: When you drill down on it, it’s hard to see how the episode has much of any bearing on Steinbrueck’s ability to lead the city; if anything, the outcry might suggest Seattle’s continued inability to address race relations in a straight-forward matter (though Kate Martin may have been more effective on that score, reading a passage from a former Seattle police officer’s memoir discussing local cops’ fear of black men).
But it is distracting from the message, and causing a lot of snickers to come Steinbrueck’s way.
Be that at is may, the campaign doesn’t seem to be ducking it: They’re taking to Twitter to direct people to the clip; his campaign is still standing by it.
“I don’t know how he arrived at the decision to read this particular piece, but I do know that Peter has a love of historical literature and that he selected it in honor of Juneteenth,” said Steinbreuck campaign spokeswoman Kathy Mulady, referring to the day celebrating emancipation.