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NAACP denounces use of racial slur by Shreveport editorialist, newspaper owner in recent publication

The Shreveport chapter of the NAACP held a news conference Wednesday, March 16, 2022 to...
The Shreveport chapter of the NAACP held a news conference Wednesday, March 16, 2022 to denounce the use of a racial slur in a newspaper article written by local editorialist and paper owner John Settle.(KSLA)
Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 5:46 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - The NAACP held a news conference Wednesday afternoon (March 16) to address what many interpret as a racial slur reportedly used by a local newspaper owner/editorialist.

The Shreveport chapter of the NAACP is denouncing John Settle’s use of the phrase “tar baby” in a recent publication. Settle owns FOCUS SB/The Inquisitor newspaper and publishes editorials on his website, SettleTalk.com.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “tar baby” as “a difficult problem that is only aggravated by attempts to solve it,” however, the term has come be used as a derogatory name for African Americans. The most well-known version of the tar baby story was first published in the early 1880s by Joel Chandler Harris in Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings.

The tale involves a villainous character, Brer Fox, who tries to trap Brer Rabbit using a doll made of tar and turpentine. In the story, the more Brer Rabbit fights the “tar baby,” the more stuck he becomes, hence the birth of the phrase.

The above photo shows John Settle's use of the phrase "tar baby" in the 12th paragraph in a...
The above photo shows John Settle's use of the phrase "tar baby" in the 12th paragraph in a recent edition of "Settle Talk" in the Focus SB newspaper.(Viewer)

The organization claims Settle used the phrase in an article entitled A primer for Shreveport city council candidates (published online March 11) to refer to specific council members up for re-election; however, in a response emailed to KSLA, Settle says his comment did not refer to specific council members, but was instead directed at newcomers running for city council.

Settle also says after being informed by several of his friends, “who happen to be African American,” that people might be offended by the term, he edited the online version of the article to say “campaign companion” instead.

The above screenshot shows the publication in question after John Settle says he removed the...
The above screenshot shows the publication in question after John Settle says he removed the phrase "tar baby" from the 12th paragraph.(Viewer)

At the news conference held at Little Union Baptist Church, Dr. Montrell Whitaker, NAACP chapter president, spoke briefly, saying the NAACP believes Settle showed his “true nature” with his comment and that his intent was “evident.” Dr. Whitaker went on to say it’s imperative for the community to stand together on the issue and condemn Settle’s words.

He called for a boycott of The Inquisitor, for public officials to openly condemn Settle’s words, and for the sheriff of Caddo Parish to “immediately cease the use of The Inquisitor as an official publication whereby using our tax money to support this newspaper owner.”

Dr. Whitaker also said he hopes Settle issues a “more direct and less generalized” apology and educates himself on the history of racism.

No questions were taken at the conclusion of the news conference.

NAACP holds news conference on racial slur used in local newspaper

The Shreveport chapter of the NAACP is holding a news conference to denounce the use of a racial slur in a recent article in the FOCUS SB newspaper by local editorialist and paper owner, John Settle.

Posted by KSLA News 12 on Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Settle provided KSLA with an advance copy of Friday’s (March 18) SettleTalk article, which is entitled, Words can have different meanings to different people, in which he issues an apology for using the phrase, saying in part, “I am appreciative of the input from these friends, and I regret use of the phrase that offended some readers.”

He says he used the phrase to describe a difficult challenge that is exacerbated by attempts to fix it.

He goes on to say, “I have been around long enough to know that practically everything and anything I do, say or write can and will be criticized by some. I know that having a well-deserved reputation of being a straightforward, hard-hitting journalist always brings scrutiny, criticisms and sometimes outright disdain. Despite the noise, I believe my record speaks for itself. To those readers I have offended, my sincere apology.”

The full article including Settle’s apology was posted to his website, SettleTalk.com, on Wednesday, March 16.

Settle also sent the following information about the situation to KSLA via email:

“Please note

  1. I sent that column out yesterday on Mail Chimp. Please note that there is NO reference to “tar baby” in that column—see para. 12
  2. I published a Settle Talk in FOCUS SB last week the same column, with the exception that in para. 12 I used the term “tar baby” in both sentences. This was ONLY published in my paper, so only subscribers or retail purchasers read the article. It was NOT sent out by Mail Chimp
  3. Several of my friends, who happen to be African American, called and advised the term was viewed by some as racial, which was NOT my intent. That is when I changed the term from “campaign tar baby” to “campaign companion” in the first sentence. In the second sentence I changed the term “the tar baby” to “the baby”. I sent that revised column out on Mail Chimp yesterday—this is the one you attached
  4. This Friday FOCUS SB will have a Settle Talk “Words have different meanings to different people.” I will send that to you, although it will ONLY be in the paper.

Please note:

    1. The NAACP has NOT reached out to me
    2. I represented successfully the NAACP in litigation over an election –at no charge—and received a special commendation from the local chapter
    3. I have 4 African American columnists who write for FOCUS SB
    4. I formed the first black white law firm in NW Louisiana
    5. I have had numerous African American persons on the cover of FOCUS SB since I started having cover personalities In Mar of last year—in fact the Marco French the Queensborough principal who won the $25k award was on the cover this year
    6. My paper has covered and run numerous pix of each African American Mardi Gras Bals this year
    7. I have supported many African American candidates in political races
    8. It is obvious from the reading of para 12 that it does NOT refer to any council members, period, and that the entire article refers to newcomers who are running for council
    9. I also believe that the context using “tar baby” is NOT racial.
    10. This Friday’s paper has an article introducing the new nominee for the Shreveport Airport Authority –Cherokee Park principal Tangela Silvie with a photo—who is an African American

6. I think my public and private record speaks for themselves.

7. Please note the individuals I have copied. The last email address is retired Judge Leon Emaneul.

Under para 5—please note

11. I sent out Willie Bradford’s eulogy for Flurry on Mailchimp

12. This Friday the paper has a full page on Flurry with Bradford’s eulogy and pix of Willie and James

13. Last week I gave a $250 contribution to Booker T. Washington HS to send help underwrite band trip to BR

I think the context is really clear

I contributed to Tabatha Taylors council race

Sent check to James Green on his race—he returnee saying did NOT take contributions

Jerry Bowman is termed out, but his wife Ursula worked for my daughter Emily Merckle in her judicial campaign last year

I have contributed to Lavette

The Learn the district lines admonition—first para.-is VERY relevant because district lines will change once council adopts reapportionment plan for districts

The lines in all districts will change

Plus in recent campaigns people, including my daughter, went house to house in the wrong district!!

my paper also runs weekly recipes of award wining chief Tootie Morrison , a local African American--she is at Abbey Singers at Robinson Film Center”

Roy Griggs, the franchise owner of numerous local McDonald’s locations, confirms to KSLA that since the publication of the article containing the slur, he has pulled his advertising from the paper. Griggs was in attendance at Wednesday afternoon’s news conference.

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