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Civil rights group calls on lawmaker to resign for tweet about Wyoming's first Black sheriff
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Civil rights group calls on lawmaker to resign for tweet about Wyoming's first Black sheriff

A regional civil rights group is calling on a Sheridan lawmaker to resign after he tweeted a “Where the white women at?” meme in reference to the appointment of Wyoming’s first Black sheriff.

The Pikes Peak Southern Christian Leadership Conference called on Republican Rep. Cyrus Western to step down immediately for his December social media post, which contained a clip of the Mel Brooks satire “Blazing Saddles.”

“It is our conviction and on this platform as a Civil Rights organization, without reservation, that we move towards the abolishment of such discriminatory acts and behaviors and seek your resignation as State Representative,” reads the letter, which is dated April 8. “Although these behaviors may have been previously tolerated, they are neither acceptable nor welcomed. Reaching back to the words of Thomas Jefferson, let us, as individuals and advocates of human dignity, lead the way to our ‘human unalienable rights that all men are created equal.’”

The letter is signed by conference President Henry L. Allen, Vice President Jimmy Simmons and Chief-of-Staff Nathaniel Granger Jr. Simmons, the former president of the Casper NAACP, provided a copy of the letter to the Star-Tribune on Monday.

“I’m going to let the voters have the final say on this one,” he said. He is up for reelection next year.

Western tweeted the meme days after Albany County Sheriff Aaron Appelhans became the first Black man to be given that title in Wyoming. In “Blazing Saddles,” character Sheriff Bart, played by Black actor Cleavon Little, makes the comment that Western shared in an attempt to anger members of the Ku Klux Klan. Last year, streaming service HBO Max added a content warning to the 1974 film, emphasizing that the movie’s racist language and stereotypes are meant to lampoon bigotry.

The civil rights group’s letter comes more than four months after Western shared the post, which he then deleted.

“Please accept our apology for this late but urgent response to such a critical matter,” the letter begins.

“I’d like to issue a retraction,” Western tweeted then. “My remark about the new Albany Sheriff was dumb and uncalled for. ... What I did was insensitive, and, while unintended, I recognize that it was wrong. I hope he accepts my apology.”

He said Monday he did not have anything to add to his previous apology.

“I fully stand by it,” he said.

The Pikes Peak Southern Christian Leadership Conference acknowledged Western’s apology: “Mr. Cyrus Western, we took into account the fact that you apologized to the newly appointed Albany County Sherriff (sic) Aaron Appelhans for your untimely and distasteful tweet in December, 2020, where instead of celebrating his appointment as Wyoming’s first Black Sheriff you used your position to demoralize him. As a State Representative, you are aware this demoralization did not only represent a personal attack on Aaron Appelhans, but also the privilege of being a White male in America and the associative implicit bias towards people of color to the extent of misuse of of that privilege as well as Representative in the form of a tweeted microaggression.”

Simmons said last month that there are now 70 Casperites involved in a Pikes Peak Southern Christian Leadership Conference group here but that an official chapter has not yet formed, in part because of the pandemic.

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