Mike Ertel’s best idea for a Halloween costume in 2005 was to dress in minstrel blackface as an African American woman from New Orleans—a “Katrina Victim,” as his T-shirt declared. This revelation comes at the end of a week in which a series of other individuals have received media attention for engaging in the racist practice, such as the students at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, Poly Prep Country Day in New York, and the University of Oklahoma.
Now Ertel faces a flood of public criticism after the photos surfaced shortly after he was appointed to the position of Secretary of State in Florida. On Thursday, Ertel resigned within hours of the photos reaching the Governor’s office. The incident is only one in a series of conflicts and questionable (racist) behaviors among the state’s politicians.
Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis, who appointed Ertel, has been associated with white supremacism. During the election season last August, DeSantis appeared on Fox News, exhorting voters in Florida to not “monkey this up” by voting for his African American contender, Andrew Gillum. A hate group even went to far as to robocall citizens in support of DeSantis, with the caller pretending to be Gillum, mimicking the voice of a minstrel performer speaking over the screams of primates.
Ertel had been a Supervisor of Elections in Seminole county for many years. He actively worked to prevent voting fraud in the swing state before being recently appointed to the Florida state office. More significantly, he has been the primary force in efforts to restore voting rights to ex-felons in the state, a disproportionate number of whom are minorities. The law he worked to repeal was established over 150 years ago as a means to eliminate black voting.
Despite his public efforts to secure fair and equal voting rights, the results of his private election to belittle African American women and Katrina survivors are in: When politicians in blackface join the party, no one wins.