Controversy over councilman's "blackface" photo

March 25, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A white Bay Area city councilman dressed up in blackface. An online photo is leading to calls for his resignation, but the council member is defiant.

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Cotati Councilman George Barich says the photo is part of his personal blog and has nothing to do with race relations in the small Sonoma County city.

Barich made it clear to ABC7 that he is not resigning. In fact, he doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.

Only three months into his term and Barich is already being asked to step down.

"I think it's time for the resignation of Mr. Barich. I think he's a complete embarrassment to the city," said John Moora, a Cotati resident.

Cotati business owners and residents are upset over Barich's personal blog that features a photo of him in blackface and in an afro. Beside it is the official logo of Cotati.

"The list of things you've done in this short reign is amazing, but this is absolutely beyond what I could imagine," said Andre Morrow, a Cotati resident.

What's more, Barich's website includes a video spoofing Air Force One under the Obama presidency.

"He disrespected the President of the United States and that's why I spoke up because I feel like he is racist and he is radical," said Cheryl Nixon, a Cotati business owner.

"I don't see any connotation as being racist, or promoting one race over the other. I'm part of the human race," said Barich.

Councilman Barich makes no apologies for his blog and certainly not the photo of him in blackface. He says it started out as a way to make fun of the city's attempt to restrict how its logo is used.

"You put your hair up the way you want to. If I wear a wig or don't wear a wig, that's my own preference. This is a personal issue for me," said Barich.

Members of the public aren't buying it.

"Saying anyone has a right to do anything doesn't pertain to council members because council members are supposed to be above and beyond reproach," said Michelle Berman, a Cotati resident.

The council did approve a code of ethics at Wednesday night's city council meeting and the mayor says he'll look at whether the councilmember's blog is in violation of that.

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