At 74, “Zim” Zimmerman knows better.
The Fort Worth City Council member representing the Lake Como community had to explain why he told a campaign forum in that African-American neighborhood on Monday that two childhood best friends in the 1950s were “colored.”
Answering a question about social justice in 2017, the eight-year council member blurted a term from 1957.
“It was the old man in me,” Zimmerman said Tuesday in a Star-Telegram Editorial Board interview about the District 3 campaign against challenger Brian Byrd.
Asked about racism and social justice in Fort Worth, Zimmerman said he talked about growing up in integrated schools in San Antonio. That city’s strong military connection and religious influence made it one of the first cities in the South to end school segregation in 1955, and the first to remove “colored” water fountains and public facilities, in 1960.
“I said my best friends were ‘colored,’ ” Zimmerman said, identifying them as basketball teammates at Jefferson High School. “I admit it. I’ll take the hit.”
Estrus Tucker, the moderator for the forum at Como First Missionary Baptist Church, said a “ripple” went through the mostly African-American crowd.
“My gut reaction is that he didn’t intend it to sound the way it sounded,” Tucker said.
It was something from another time, and he’s from another time.
Lake Como leader and forum moderator Estrus Tucker
“I don’t think the majority of the audience took it as disrespectful. … It just really dated him. He’s been in the Como community all the time working with us, and he never says anything like that. It was something from another time, and he’s from another time.”
Zimmerman, a retired Lockheed Martin Aeronautics executive, represents Lake Como along with much of west and southwest Fort Worth including Clearfork, Overton Woods, Ridglea, Tanglewood, Westcliff, Westpoint and Western Hills.
He and Byrd spoke at a program that also included Mayor Betsy Price and challenger Chris Nettles, a young pastor running in part on a social-justice platform.
“It was a little surprising that he used that terminology,” Nettles said Tuesday.
He seemed a little out of touch with the community.
Mayoral challenger Chris Nettles
“We don’t use those terms in the 21st century. He seemed a little out of touch with the community.”
African-American leaders asked to use the terms “black American” or “African-American” as far back as 1920, but the terms “Negro” and “colored” were common until the 1960s, a check of Star-Telegram archives shows. News stories mostly described subjects as “black” by 1967, “African-American” by 1989.
The term “colored” remains in use for historic names and references.
But if you say it in a political speech, you’d better be describing Easter eggs.