11/21/2013 01:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Detroit News Blogger Robert Smith, Jr. Explains Controversial 'Brothers Killing Brothers' Post

New Bethel Baptist Church

"Why do brothers kill brothers?"

That was the title of an op-ed posted Wednesday to the Detroit News' Politics Blog, which features a rotating cast of authors.

The first line read: "The Negro, as I prefer calling the people that are commonly called blacks or African-Americans today, are more than willing to kill each other for any cause."

The post was quickly taken down by the news organization, which is one of two major daily newspapers in the city and is owned by MediaNews Group. The Huffington Post took a screenshot of the post before it was removed:

negroes blog

Perhaps no one was more surprised by the post than Henry Payne. He's a former Detroit News cartoonist who also ran the Politics Blog until Monday, when he became the paper's auto critic. Because his photo was the only image available on the webpage, the story was shared on Facebook with his headshot -- making it look like Payne wrote the post.

henry payne

The actual author, Pastor Robert L. Smith, Jr. of the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, is black. According to his bio, he's an executive board member of the Michigan Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and a former vice president of the Detroit NAACP.

Smith said he didn't know why the Detroit News chose to take down this particular post -- a frequent contributor to the Politics Blog in the past, he said commenters regularly call for his entries to be removed.

The paper did not respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post, but Detroit News Managing Editor Gary Miles told Romenesko that he pulled the blog item on Wednesday because he "felt it wasn’t quite ready for publication."

Smith wasn't upset. "I'm not disturbed. They can do what they like," he said. "It's their paper."

He explained to HuffPost why he prefers to call himself "Negro."

Smith grew up in Pensacola, Fla., one of 10 children born to his father, a reverend. When he was a child, everyone said "Negra" instead of "Negro," even the "good whites," he remembered. The term "Negro," Smith believes, reflects a period in African American history when people advocated for assimilation and association with whites. He thinks the term fell out of fashion during the civil rights era, when using the term "Black" implied activism. Smith referred to himself "Black" until the Million Man March on Washington, D.C., in 1995. That's when he says he realized, "It's not others that are keeping us down."

Smith thinks black people need a new word to identify themselves, because words like "Black" and "African American" symbolize "disunity and disconnect."

His statements on black-on-black crime seem to reflect his frustration with the violence in cities like Detroit, which had three triple murders in one week earlier this month. His church, New Bethel Baptist, is on Linwood Avenue, on the city's west side. The church works "to make Linwood the best community in Detroit."

Earlier this year, three men attacked two elderly women in their beds in a home near the church, he said. The home faces the alley behind a popular liquor store, and there's constant foot traffic, he claimed. Yet nobody saw anything.

"Where's the outrage?," he asked. "Why aren't blacks upset about a black person killing a black person? We have this 'no snitch,' 'don't tell,' thing. We asked everybody on Linwood who attacked those two old ladies. Nobody will talk. Somebody knows."



Black History Month Photos