A couple of high school buddies -- one white, one black -- dress up as each other in stereotypical attire for homecoming. They're immature, inappropriate showoffs looking for a laugh.
I'm sorry, but that's what kids do. Dumb, inappropriate things. Sometimes things that don't make their mothers proud. Especially teenage boys who mature slower than girls.
Nevertheless, a decade-and-a-half after that foolish homecoming stunt, the Florida Democratic Party -- never ones to miss a political opportunity -- want Rep. Anthony Sabatini, R-Eustis, the white boy grown up, to resign because he had blacked his face that sophomore year.
Think of how crazy it sounds. It's truly laughable, racial politics gone wild.
If ever the punishment didn't fit the crime ...
"In calling out racist behavior, Florida Democrats and Republicans should stand united," FDP Chair Terrie Rizzo exclaimed in a statement last week. She wanted Gov. Ron DeSantis and House Speaker Jose Oliva to make it happen. Get Sabatini out.
Of course, the indignant-est Democrat of all was Cynthia Brown, the candidate Sabatini walloped by 13 percentage points last election. She called Sabatini's behavior “mean, cruel and unacceptable for anyone,” particularly an elected official.
In a separate social media post Brown addressed Sabatini directly. "Anthony, you cannot represent ALL of the people of our district, just as the Florida Secretary of State decided he couldn’t,” she wrote. "Do what is right for once, step down and resign."
How many high school boys with a fully developed sensitivity filter do you know?
When I was a kid, adults who should have known better actually encouraged dopey, tasteless behavior. Which I consider worse than Sabatini and his friend Brandon Evans' stunt. I remember what a kick our high school football coaches got out of helping the boys football team dress up as girl cheerleaders -- complete with long hair, exaggerated lipstick, pillow boobs and short skirts -- so they could dance can-can-style in our end-of-year pageant. Every year this went on. It was the 1984 film "Revenge of the Nerds," but for real.
Pure mysogyny. We could've used the Democrats' outrage then. But it was AWOL.
Sabatini didn't laugh off what he did in 2004. But he put it in the right perspective.
“I’m 16 years old," he said in an interview with The Orlando Sentinel. "One of my best friends of the time was black, and we thought at the time -- looking back, it was immature -- it would be funny to dress as each other. He dressed in my clothes -- a Ralph Lauren polo shirt, shorts, Converse -- and I dressed in his clothing ... None of us thought 14 years later any of us would be a public figure and the photo would be decontextualized."
Brandon Evans, Sabatini's African-American friend, told the newspaper, “Every year at high school homecoming week, we had things like ‘80s day and celebrity days. We said, ‘I’m going to be you and you’re going to be me.’ I don’t know how it got to be seen as racial. That’s all it was.”
Again, these two were friends. Where do we see anything malicious in their poor judgment? It seems to me, their behavior was aimed more at misguidedly exploring their differences for laughs than it was at demeaning anybody's dignity.
The Democrats are crying wolf. Resign for racism? Really, Terrie?
There's plenty of real racism to call out in the Sunshine State. We don't need far-fetched faux outrage and hyped political rhetoric to distract us from keeping our eye on the ball.
And most of us will be luckier than Sabatini. We're unlikely ever to be asked to explain the inappropriate, insensitive, dumb-as-rocks stuff we pulled as kids.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith