A Republican lawmaker wrote a racial slur in an op-ed and no one raised an eyebrow, but when African-American lawmakers spoke up against it, they got reprimanded.
Arizona Rep. Maria Syms (R) wrote an op-ed published in The Arizona Republic, which included a disparaging term for African- Americans from a song by Pulitzer Prize-winning hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar, to criticize the leaders of the teachers’ strike.
Democratic Reps. Reginald Bolding and Geraldine Peten – the only black members of the Arizona state legislature – spoke against the audacious remarks of their colleague. The response to lawmakers’ legitimate concern was what one would expect from the Republican-controlled House: the majority of the members voted to formally rebuke the two lawmakers, the Associated Press reported.
In her contentious column, Syms slammed the #RedForEdteacher walkout movement and called the classroom of one of the leaders Noah Karvelis “exotic” because he allegedly teaches Lamar’s lyrics. She also wrote about how the two best-known leaders of the movement are “political operatives” who were radicalizing Arizona youth with hip-hop lessons.
Bolding severely criticized the article on the House floor, saying it was an attempt to disgrace the educators for teaching students about African-American entertainers.
“This article attempts to discredit this teacher because he may have introduced lyrics in the classroom written by a black entertainer,” said the Democrat. “This article attempts to discredit this teacher because he ‘takes inspiration’ from a black civil rights activist. This article attempts to discredit this teacher because he ‘admires’ a professor that taught at a historically black college for women.”The lawmaker also pointed out the use of racial slur in the piece, which came from Lamar’s lyrics.
“The more I read the more I was disappointed that it appears to be OK to use a racial slur about black people in the article,” Bolding continued. “Let me be crystal clear: It’s not acceptable to us a racial slur even if that slur is used as a quote.”
Peten also joined his colleague, sparking anger amongst the Republicans.
“I don’t know why it’s so hard to follow the rules,” said Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R), essentially reprimanding the lawmakers for calling out racism. “It doesn’t matter whether you are white or black or brown on whatever the color the color of your skin is, you follow the House rules.”
The newspaper has since removed the expletives.
However, Syms defended the article by saying, “I think the one thing that we can agree on is that these terms are terribly offensive. If anyone would read the article they would know that those words were used in the article to expose the offensive nature of language used by the leader of #RedforEd in the classroom. Every person in the state of Arizona should be offended by these racially offensive words that are being used in our classrooms right now.”
Karvelis shunned the lawmaker’s accusation by calling it “just a distraction.”
This formal rebuke of lawmakers came amid thousands of Arizona teachers and supporters walking out of their classroom to demand better funding for public schools. Also, it seems Republicans have a penchant for downgrading the teachers’ movement, as just last week GOP lawmakers in Colorado proposed a bill for punishing striking teachers with jail time and fines.
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