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City councilman faces blackface backlash

City councilman and deputy mayor Kent O'Dell is defending himself after photos from a 2012 Halloween party show him in blackface.

Posted: Aug 31, 2020 1:18 AM
Updated: Aug 31, 2020 9:15 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A local city councilman is in hot water, after controversial photos of him resurface across social media over the weekend. 

City councilman and deputy mayor Kent O'Dell is responding after the photos of him from 8 years ago showed him in blackface. The resurfaced photos quickly spread across social media, and so too did reaction from O'Dell's constituents.

"It's a slap in the face," LaTonya Williams, a St. Joseph resident who lives in O'Dell's district said, "He's my representative and this is how he chooses to act? It's hurtful and I'm ashamed."

The outrage also sent shockwaves through the rest of the city council, mayor Bill McMurray said he received several emails containing the photos and expressed concern. 

"I really was shocked at what I saw," McMurray said. "I certainly don't condone that type of behavior."

O'Dell has defended his position on the matter saying he does not offend people and is not racist, he said he believes the controversial photos were released for other reasons.  

"I'm not leaning the way some people want me to lean on some decisions," he said. "It's been on my wall for years and all of a sudden this has become an issue," 

O'Dell's constituents upset by the photo say there's simply no excuse for it.

"If you don't get it or don't think it's offensive, you have to get in your mind that it is." Williams said. "It is not right and you cannot do this."

While he says he doesn't expect to leave office over the photo, O'Dell said it wasn't his intent to offend and given the current social climate he wouldn't do such a thing today. 

"If I offended anybody that's the last thing I wanted to," O'Dell said. "with tension going around now i'd have never done it."

The mayor said he plans to have O'Dell meet with the city attorney Monday where they will decide how to move forward. 

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Cooler air has moved back over northeast Missouri and northeast Kansas on Friday. Temperatures only made it into the lower 30's on Friday with light winds across the mid west. A storm system will form and will head our way by Saturday night and Sunday. The chance for a rain and snow mix will be there as we go into Sunday night and Monday.
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