A man who was accused of racially abusing Chesterfield’s first black mayor by calling him “Uncle Tom” has been found not guilty by a jury.
James Wright, 41, appeared at Derby Crown Court this week accused of using racist language against mayor of Chesterfield, Councillor Alexis Diouf, and his wife mayoress Vickey-Anne Diouf.
But it took less than three hours for jurors to acquit Mr Wright, of Rutland Road, Chesterfield, of one charge of racially aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress, on Tuesday.
The court heard that on April 16 this year, Cllr Diouf was with his wife and grandson outside Chesterfield Town Hall, having photographs taken ahead of taking up mayoral duties. He was dressed in full regalia.
The jury heard that, midway through the photo-shoot, Mr Wright approached and began speaking to Cllr Diouf.
Mr Wright asked whether the mayoral chain was real gold, to which Cllr Diouf said it was, the court heard.
The jury was told that the photographer asked Mr Wright to leave.
Giving evidence, Cllr Diouf said: “Then [Mr Wright] said to me ‘what have you done to deserve it, what have you done to deserve them electing you?’.”
Mr Diouf added: “Then he turned to me and said ‘oh, are you Uncle Tom then?’.
“Then he turned to my wife and said ‘are you Mrs Tom?’,” Mr Diouf added.
Uncle Tom is a fictional slave character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin – published in 1852 – who ingratiates himself with his white captors to rise to an elevated status.
Mr Wright denied he was a racist and denied calling Cllr Diouf ‘Uncle Tom’.
He told the court he used the word ‘Tom-foolery’ to refer to the mayoral chain. He said that his comment to Mrs Diouf was also in relation to the jewellery, as she was wearing the mayoress chain.
Mr Wright said: “The only Tom I referred to was Tom-foolery: jewellery.
“[The comment] was in jest, not malicious,” he added.
Mr Wright said he was trying to ask Mr Diouf about the links on his chain, and believed that Cllr Diouf must have misheard his comments.
Mr Wright also admitted saying: “We’ll have that chain off you come the revolution.”
But he said this comment was referring to the industrial revolution in Derbyshire.
Jurors agreed with Mr Wright’s version of events and acquitted him of the charge.