Long Island NAACP regional director Tracey Edwards Monday scolded Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy for referring generically to a "Shaniqua" at a Martin Luther King Day speech intended to highlight his commitment to fighting housing discrimination.
"The ongoing African-American and Hispanic references and stereotypical generalities that were entwined in your remarks are unacceptable, disturbing and contradicts any commitment to eliminate discrimination," Edwards wrote to Levy.
Shortly after receiving the letter Monday morning, Levy called Edwards and "noted his desire to stand united in fighting against discrimination in housing," said his spokesman, Dan Aug.
Levy made the remark last week after saying he had signed an anti-bias housing measure into law, adding, "Even Shaniqua could file a complaint" or buy a house.
Levy, in a statement released by Aug, said: "I was not making a joke; I was being very serious that someone named Diaz, Chang, Mohammed or Shaniqua might be discriminated against by a landlord simply because of their name, and that we will never fulfill Dr. King's dream until that type of bias is eradicated."
Levy Monday also sent a letter addressed to community leaders defending and explaining his use of "Shaniqua." In the letter, Levy said he would "refrain from using that name" in future speeches.
Edwards said that, whatever Levy's intent, what matters most is the result.
"There are many things you can still do, starting today to change outcomes," she wrote. "You must recognize that it must begin with you and it should start today."