Velmanette Montgomery backpedals on ‘white people don’t eat the way we do’ comment

Pol walks back weird white-people diet remark, sez ‘I didn’t mean to offend’

The Brooklyn Paper
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A legislator on Tuesday backpedaled from a bizarre racist remark she made the night prior while discussing the closing of a Clinton Hill supermarket at a town hall meeting.

State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D–Clinton Hill), who is African American, told CBS2 she did not intend offence when she said “white people don’t eat the way we do” to a predominately black audience gathered to talk about a planned eight-story residential building that is set to rise on Lafayette Avenue, where a Key Food currently sits. She stopped short of apologizing for the remarks, which were exclusively reported by The Brooklyn Paper.

“It was an unfortunate statement and I didn’t mean to offend anyone,” she told CBS2.

Her original statement was this:

“Supermarkets are an important part of the community. It’s an important amenity, especially for black and brown communities. When you’re talking about a white community, it can be a little boutique, because white people don’t eat the way we do.”

Montgomery explained to CBS that she meant to say that a smaller, higher-priced replacement grocery store would not work for the largely African-American population of the neighboring discounted co-op towers, which is lower-income and consists of larger families than the white population in the neighborhood.

Seniors in discounted co-op buildings around the supermarket between Saint James Place and Classon Avenue worry that the supermarket closure will make it much harder to meet their basic needs. The property’s owner said he would do his best to replace the Key Food once the new development is constructed.

Community members at the Monday night meeting echoed Montgomery’s sentiment in less mystifying language.

“If our skin were any other color, this would not be happening,” said Roseanne Lynn, a resident of Ryerson Towers.

Montgomery’s office did not respond to requests for additional comment.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn says:
ya know they take food stamps and wic checks at wholefoods and trader joes.
Feb. 25, 2015, 2:09 pm
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
I hate to say this, but I don't find what this women said to be particularly "racist". Now, this, of course, is only the opinion of one man. And this man's name happens to be John Wasserman.
Pardon the interruption.
John Wasserman
Feb. 25, 2015, 4:44 pm
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
I might add that I'm not even sure what the meaning of this "racist" statement was. Did she mean using our hands as opposed to utensils? The style in which we eat:slow? Fast? The products that we purchase?
John Wasserman is at a loss at the moment.
Feb. 25, 2015, 4:47 pm
JaniceD from Marine Park says:
This is over the top political correctness: of course difference cultures, ethnicities, and preferences eat differently. DUH! We rejoice in the variety of people and availability of everything in this city, no time to start playing at the Emperor's New Clothes now!
Feb. 25, 2015, 5:49 pm
Schellie Hagan from Clinton Hill says:
If dainty-shopping whites is racist, what about blacks buying in bulk because Senator Montgomery concluded her observations on ethnic grocery shopping with, "We buy in bulk." The townhall audience heard it as a punchline. We all laughed. Did we all miss an opportunity to be offended?
Feb. 25, 2015, 6:41 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I can't be offended by stupid comments. I just discount the speaker.

I am embarrassed and ashamed as a Democrat though. Democrats are a multi-racial coalition. We aren't "white people don't buy groceries." We are "hungry people do they best they can to put food on the table."

I love grocery shopping more than anyone. But other white people buy groceries, whether they like it or not. Know why? Because white people get hungry.. just like everyone! The Democratic Party is absolutely the party that fights hunger. I'm ashamed by this "Democrat"'s disgraceful comments.
Feb. 26, 2015, 2:13 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I almost posted on Facebook about this, but I truly am ashamed to be in the same political party as this woman. I couldn't justify bringing any more attention to her terrible ideas, and I truly wish she'd be kicked out of our party, or at least an elected office... since you can sign up for whatever party you want.
Feb. 26, 2015, 2:20 am
Tom from Clinton Hill says:
And you stay true to your sleazy style by continuing to selectively report an out of context quote, leaving off the punch line of a joke so you can call her a racist. SLEAZY.

And Mike, let me know when you run for anything
Feb. 26, 2015, 6:26 am
Zawadi from Bed-Stuy says:
Thank you, Tom!!! I'm glad someone said it! Instead of focusing on the fact that this neighborhood has come together to protest the loss of something that is very important to their health and quality of life, they decide focus on playing this politician out as a racist. Do they even care about the neighborhoods or the residents on which they report? I guess not.
Feb. 26, 2015, 8:26 am
Zawadi from Bed-Stuy says:
... And what is a "Sez?"
Feb. 26, 2015, 8:28 am
Missing metfood from Carroll Gardens says:
The closing of supermarkets is a problem throughout Brooklyn. It is unfortunate that the Brooklyn Paper got bogged down with Senator Montgomery's comment. This event was cohosted by other politicians. Did they offer anything concrete?

I really wish that Montgomery, Velazquez, Millman (at the time), and Levin had held a similar meeting when the Met on Smith closed. The Bridging Gowanus website pays lip service to the loss of affordable services such as grocery stores and laundromats but makes it seem that only public housing residents utilize them which isn't the case.
Feb. 26, 2015, 10:34 am
ty from pps says:
let's open a grocery store together! it will have bike racks and get deliveries from roof top gardens.
Feb. 26, 2015, 11:36 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
I believe the statement was more of a blanket generalization of eating habits, and less a racism issue. Generalizing is not a smart thing to do, but eating habits are certainly not an issue of concern. Of course, gentrification is pushing many black familes from their neighborhoods, and fustrations are showing. First the "gentifiers" took the housing, then the food.
Feb. 26, 2015, 11:49 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Tom, I don't think I'll be running for anything anytime soon. Suffering fools is not my strong suit, but you have to do it to be elected.
Feb. 26, 2015, 12:20 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
As a white person, I do feel pretty offended by what she said. I am nothing like those she claims to be nor am I someone who happens to be high up on the ladder. I work just as hard and deserve the same respect. Not all white people are rich and well to do especially when none of that implies to me. It's very said to hear this coming from Velmanette Montgomery after I did support her for her stance on the Atlantic Yards or as some like to call it Pacific Park these days. More importantly, her statement better not be aimed at Jews, because this will be an insult to all the Jews who marched with MLK, Jr. in the Civil Rights Movement.
Feb. 26, 2015, 6:04 pm
Shirley says:
Food racism is everywhere In this grocery. On a recent visit I observed BLACKberries, BLACK coffee, BROWN rice, and DARK CHOCOLATE. No white people only foods.
Feb. 26, 2015, 6:30 pm
john from sheepshead bay says:
Why isn't there a call for this lady to resign. There is no room for racist in government. Of course the attitude of many black civil rights activist and clergy preach to their followers that only others are racists. If a white politician said the same thing, a lynch mob will be outside the guys house for a much less racist remark. They believe in a "back america" that is different then the multicultural America the rest of us live in. I am black and grew up in these churches.
Feb. 26, 2015, 7:14 pm
john from sheepshead bay says:
Why isn't there a call for this lady to resign. There is no room for racist in government. Of course the attitude of many black civil rights activist and clergy preach to their followers that only others are racists. If a white politician said the same thing, a lynch mob will be outside the guys house for a much less racist remark. They believe in a "back america" that is different then the multicultural America the rest of us live in. I am black and grew up in these churches.
Feb. 26, 2015, 7:14 pm
Ted from Gowanus says:
If you knew anything about Senator Montgomery you'd know she doesn't have a racist bone in her body. You're just believing the slime this rag is throwing at her. Don't. You're better than that. You'd have to be, living as a black man in Sheepshead Bay!
Feb. 26, 2015, 8:02 pm
Michael says:
Ted - fairly nasty comment. Obviously, her statement shows that she groups people by race.

It goes even further than that, either putting down one vs. the other, or trying to imply that there's something fundamentally wrong with one. It's inappropriate for an elected official to represent only one racial group of her constituency. Just to highlight the real situation - substitue any other race for "white people". The statement would then be so inflamatory, she'd be forced to resign on the spot. Why it isn't enough for that now boggles the mind. She might keep her job - but she is a total racist.
Feb. 27, 2015, 9:15 am
Ted from Gowanus says:
Michael - you don't know what you are talking about at all. We don't even know where you live, too much trouble to fill it in, or do you think that shouldn't matter? Because I'm willing to bet you don't live in this Senator's district or know anything else about her other than what you have read in this article, which as has been established by people attending the meeting, left out some serious contextual information.

If I'm wrong, I apologize for the assumption.

But if I'm correct, I would suggest you ask yourself why you are so ready to believe this skewed view painted by this paper? Why do they continue to leave out the punch-line of the joke the Senator was telling? Why haven't they corrected their article?

Racist is such a harsh word. Now try it in a mirror.
Feb. 27, 2015, 1:12 pm
Edgar from Park Anyplace You Can says:
What if a white politician said:

"Black people dont eat the same way white people do. They can . . ."
Feb. 27, 2015, 1:31 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Unfortunately, minority groups can be just as racist as whites are, which shows it can come from both sides, and that's some real tough love there.
Feb. 27, 2015, 4:11 pm
Erik from Clinton Hill says:
This white person who lives two blocks from the Key Food is also not happy about this. I would love to get more information about what I can do to help stop this. We had a large supermarket close @ Washington and Fulton 6 months ago and Waverly Market has limited stock. Maybe The Brooklyn Paper could post more actual facts about the proposed development & timeline. Velmanette Montgomery should also try reaching out to some of her white neighbors this isn't a race issue it's a quality of life issue.
Feb. 27, 2015, 5:30 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
That is a good point Erik, and the loss of the major supermarkets that they have does cause some to have to travel further just to get groceries they normally didn't have to go such distances for originally.
Feb. 27, 2015, 6:41 pm
Schellie from Hagan says:
Hi, Erik,
The Trade Winds supermarket you mention at Washington and Fulton was lured to quick death by FAB, the Fulton Street Business Improvement.
FAB doesn't know the first thing about how to run a business, nevermind improve one. Who else would have suggested to Trade Winds to open a block away from the Met supermarket?
Now Key Food, the grocery has been run by the Widdi family for three generations, since the 1960s. The store has been and remains the heart and soul of the neighborhood.
Trade Winds never laid a glove on the Widdis. In six months, Trade Winds was gone.
Now FAB has another market coming in at the same spot. There's little reason to think this one will do any better than Trade Winds. Give em a year, maybe less.
Because not only is there the Key Food between St James and Cambridge, between St James and Washington there's Green Planet, Brooklyn Victory Garden and Mr. Melon, and the Greene Hill Food Co-op between Grand and Downing.
What we really could use is a hardware store. We had one, Sister's, which left after FAB came. Now it's Sisters restaurant/bar.
Under FAB we've lost our hardware, gas station, tire store and funeral parlor, services that people need, to be sure, but don't fit with the fun Fulton Street of FAB.
Trade Winds is one of more than sixty stores that have folded in FAB's six years. FAB takes no responsibility for the high attrition.
Strangely enough, the stores have to pay FAB to stay open, like it or not. The stores don't like it and want out but are held hostage by the City Council.

Feb. 28, 2015, 12:51 am
Ted from Gowanus says:
Wow. Not just racist and unimaginative, you can't spell or even use spellcheck!
Feb. 28, 2015, 6:36 am
Pooter from Bed-Stuy says:
"Ted" is not a person - just Montgommery writing under a false name!
She can hardly stoop any lower than this.
March 1, 2015, 5:31 am
Ted from Gowanus says:
And "Pooter" is Marty Golden...showing how low you can go.
March 4, 2015, 1:59 pm
Henry says:
I used to live around the corner and shopped at this supermarket every week. (USED to - can't afford it now). I'm white. Many of this supermarket's other patrons are too, and I'm certain they will be lamenting the loss of this necessary part of the community. I'd stop short of calling the comments racist - only ignorant. White people are all rich and only shop in boutiques? Please.
March 10, 2015, 1:30 pm

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