Insulted after a white political candidate approached her assuming she worked as a housekeeper at the Bay Harbor Islands condominium complex, an African-American federal judge posted the exchange this week on her private Facebook page, calling out Bay Harbor Islands town council candidate Kenneth Eskin.
“So much for post racial America,” U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke wrote on her Facebook page following the encounter with Eskin in the parking lot of her condominium home, where she has lived for 20 years.
Cooke, through her clerk, declined comment to a Miami Herald reporter.
Reached by telephone, Eskin said he regretted his remarks and asked a Herald reporter for the judge’s contact information to personally apologize to her.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“I’m not going to deny it. It wasn’t malicious, I asked a question,” Eskin said. “If I offended her, I would apologize to her. I certainly meant nothing by it. There was nothing racially inspired.”
Eskin, 69, is running for a seat on the Bay Harbor Town Council. The election is April 21.
He said he approached Cooke on Tuesday morning while she was putting things away in her car and asked what family she worked for. He said he was trying to pass out campaign leaflets in the parking lot because he was not allowed inside the condo building.
Eskin said that he had no idea who Cooke was and that he had made an assumption because of the town’s racial makeup. Bay Harbor Islands is home to 5,854 people, 92 percent of whom are white.
“It’s a quick thing when you introduce yourself to strangers. You only have five seconds. I don’t know if that’s an excuse,” Eskin said. “There is like 3 percent of people of color on this entire island. You never know who you are talking to.”
Cooke’s Facebook page is not public, but the posting and related comments were sent via email to the Miami Herald.
On her Facebook page, Cooke posted Eskin’s photo. She also wrote that she would not have been insulted had Eskin started the conversation a different way.
“If he had asked my name. Followed by where did I work, no offense taken,” wrote Cooke, 60, who was nominated to the federal bench in 2003 by then President George W. Bush.
In 2004, the U.S. Senate confirmed Cooke’s nomination. She was the first black woman to become a federal judge in Florida.
Facebook posting of exchange between judge and local candidate
This is what U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke wrote on her Facebook page about her exchange with Bay Harbor Islands town council candidate Kenneth Eskin:
“My Facebook posts are pretty neutral, and rarely personal. Today's post is personal and I doubt it will evoke neutral response(s).
“It is approximately 9:30 am. I am leaving for work. Hence I am dressed in the female legal eagle/corporate attire: navy blue suit, pearls and pumps. I am carrying a coordinating bag and briefcase. As I approach my car, a man approaches me with leaflets. Our town elections are in a few weeks and I assume he is a candidate for one of the vacant council seats. Many candidates come to the condos and do the meet and greet. As I approach my car, the conversation:
“He: ‘What family do you work for?’
“Me: ‘Excuse me, I live here.’
“Me: ‘Yes, for over twenty-years.’
“As he tries to hand me campaign literature, I get in my car and drive away.
“Yes, Kenneth Eskin, I live in Bay Harbor Islands.
“So much for post racial America.”