Republican lawmakers just don’t understand the concept of thinking before speaking. Time after time state officials are found to make comments they allegedly did not realize could come off as racist, but that doesn’t excuse their behavior. In a recent incident, a Louisiana state representative was ousted from his position as chairman of the House Education Committee after making comments around teaching slavery in schools.
The comments followed a bill that aimed to put limitations on classroom discussions about racism. While discussing the bill Louisiana state Rep. Ray Garofalo claimed that teaching students “the good, the bad, the ugly” of slavery was necessary on April 26. While he quickly attempted to correct himself that he did not mean there was a “good” aspect of slavery, his comments were heard and controversial.
Garofalo’s comments quickly went viral with multiple calls for him to step down and he was officially removed as chairman of the House Education Committee Tuesday. In a statement regarding his removal he accused Republican House Speaker Clay Schexnayder of “sacrificing me to the Black Caucus, who seem to be controlling the Louisiana House of Representatives this term,” the Associated Press reported. Failing to understand the issues with his statement, he blamed Schexnayder for allegedly throwing him “under the bus.”
While Schexnayder did not discuss details of Garofalo’s removal, Rep. Tanner Magee told the AP that Garofalo was asked to temporarily step down on Monday for the rest of the legislative session, not for the full term. According to Magee, after hearing this Garofalo left the meeting and began telling people he was kicked out of the job. “He was asked to put his personal ambition aside. He refused and left the meeting. Now he’s telling everyone he’s been removed so he can be a martyr,” Magee said Tuesday.
Instead of realizing his mistake, Garofalo suggested he lost his chairmanship because he wouldn’t agree to demands regarding the bill. Black lawmakers were upset with not only Garofalo’s legislation but his inability to acknowledge his mistakes and apologize to his colleagues. Like many other stubborn Republicans, instead of accepting his suspension, Garofalo threw a fit. “I want to be clear. I did not step down voluntarily as chairman.”
The bill in question sought to limit conversations regarding racism in the country by prohibiting teaching that Louisiana or the U.S. was “systematically racist or sexist.” Under the bill, teachers were also forbidden to teach information that allegedly “promotes divisive concepts,” such as critical race theory which examines the way race and racism influence different aspects of life.
“It is the speaker’s prerogative to choose who he wants to chair a committee,” Garofalo said in a statement. “I have no problem with his exercising his authority, but I will not sacrifice my principles in doing what I know is right. My legislation is about protecting our children, not erasing or rewriting history as Critical Race Theory seeks to do.”
Alongside his argument that critical race theory “fuels hate” during the April hearing, Garofalo said that all aspects of slavery had to be taught, including “the good.”
“If you’re having a discussion on whatever the case may be, on slavery, then you can talk about everything having to do with slavery: the good, the bad, the ugly,” Garofalo said in an exchange with Republican Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, who asked Garofalo to explain how the bill would play into a classroom. Hilferty noted that “there’s no good to slavery, though.”
While he initially tried to backtrack his statement during the hearing, Garofalo did not apologize. Even when the Black Caucus came together to strip him of his chairmanship, Garofalo still did not apologize and defended his words and the bill. This led to meetings between Black lawmakers and Schexnayder which ultimately resulted in Garofalo’s removal.
This is far from the first time a Republican state legislator has made racist comments. Daily Kos reported March 10 on a Texas legislator who sponsored a bill that consisted of racist language. The legislator, in this case, claimed to not know the history of “preserve the purity of the ballot box” as terminology used to disenfranchise Black voters after the Civil War. In another incident, a Connecticut lawmaker made a xenophobic comment alleging Asian Americans have never faced racism during a meeting on housing segregation.
Watch the comments from the hearing below:
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