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EDITORIAL — Candidate’s words return to ‘bite’ him

The Chuck Vincent we met Tuesday was no rabid racist nor was he a hateful man.

But his own words — he chose them, he wrote them, he posted them on social media in recent years — suggest otherwise.

The mayoral candidate from Port Acres reflected with us Tuesday about his language and written, expressed thoughts and, more importantly, what was in his heart when he made racist, hateful Facebook posts.

Later, he posted on Facebook a video in which he seemed to regret the words he used, the impact they made and the moral darkness they reflect. He needed to do that.

After incumbent Mayor Derrick Freeman posted excerpts from Vincent’s own words used on social media, and this newspaper asked Vincent about those comments, he did not deny them outright. Give him some credit for honesty after the fact.

He said he hadn’t had time to read everything written on Freeman’s Facebook page, but he conceded he had over the years been intemperate in his language. He said people who know him well know he is a better man than that. Maybe so.

But all that many others know about him — social media comments can find their way well beyond most people’s control — is what he wrote himself. Excerpts cited by Freeman suggest Vincent has written hateful things about African-Americans, Mexicans, Middle Easterners.

There are many steps to making a social media comment, including sorting your thoughts, writing words down and deciding to share your insights with the world. There are opportunities to change your mind along the way.

These were posts made in recent years, and Vincent said he’s acknowledged while campaigning that his social media use might become a source of political fallout. They are his Achilles heel. Eventually, Vincent feared, they would “bite him on the butt.”

“Eventually” arrived Tuesday.

This newspaper endorsed Freeman’s candidacy for re-election on April 5. We cited this as one reason for our editorial support: Mayors present the face of their cities. Freeman — by his sincerity, courage, commitment and goodwill — presents an image of hope and unity for Port Arthur. Unity has been a long time coming in this city. Vincent, in words written by his own hand, does not reflect an image of hope and unity.

What Vincent’s social media posts teach to a wider world is people should reflect more before they use hurtful, hateful language. It’s better to choose to reflect before using such language than to be forced to reflect on one’s own hateful language later.

That’s true not just for politicians but for everyone, editorial writers included. It’s true not just in our public dealings with others but in our private ones, as well.

Do that, and nothing will bite you … not anywhere.