Skip to content

Miami-Dade Black Affairs Board Chair Apologizes After Member Called DeSantis “Racist”

“Words matter,” said Pierre Rutledge, Chair of the Miami-Dade Black Affairs board, while apologizing to Governor Ron DeSantis.

MIAMI, FLORIDA — Two days after Miami lawyer Stephen Hunter Johnson – a member of the Miami-Dade Black Affairs board – called Governor Ron DeSantis “racist,” the board issued a public apology. At a Friday press conference, Chairman Pierre Rutledge said the comment did not reflect a consensus of the board.

“Words matter,” said Rutledge. “As chair, I must start by saying we want to pull that back. There’s nothing wrong with saying, ‘We’re sorry.’ That’s not what we intended to say or be depicted by anyone. And that’s not the feeling of this board.”

Rutledge apologized along with nine fellow members in response to Miami lawyer Stephen Hunter Johnson stating, “our governor is racist,” at a Wednesday board meeting. Johnson made the statement while the Black Affairs Advisory Board discussed the governor’s action to reject an African-American studies course that featured Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and Queer Theory.


While Johnson’s comments drew no objections when he made them, board members unanimously voted to have him and another member draft a letter to DeSantis. According to the Miami Herald, the draft letter he submitted to board staff Wednesday night stated, “we find that your administration has engaged in overt racism and anti-Blackness, for purely political purposes.”

But when board members read the final version of the letter sent to the governor, it did not criticize DeSantis directly but stated the board was “saddened to see the State of Florida raise objection to the College Board’s AP African American Studies submission.”


The press conference followed Miami-Dade’s unveiling of a lobby exhibit at the Stephen P. Clark Center dedicated to Black History Month. The exhibit, sponsored by the Black Affairs Board, focuses on the theme of “Black Resistance,” highlighting notable moments in the fight for civil rights in Miami.

Johnson attended the exhibit launch event but left before the board held the press conference. The Miami Herald reported that after the press conference, Johnson said he made his point clear before the board vote and that he stands by his original remarks.

“The Black community has been far too polite for far too long in the face of overt racism,” Johnson said. “And it is our obligation to call it out when we see it and are confronted with it.”