Listen to this article here
Sign-Up for a free subscription to The Black Wall Street Times‘ daily newsletter, Black Editors’ Edition (BEE) – our curated news selections & opinions by us for you.
Once again in a state known for domestic terrorism against Black people and others, a lone Oklahoma legislator has stopped political progress in its tracks with racist foolery.
During a debate on an abortion bill in the Oklahoma House on Tuesday, Representative Brad Boles R-Marlow referred to Black infants as “colored babies.”
I thought we’d killed Jim Crow at this point. But it looks like his spirit lives on in the hearts of conservatives everywhere. We’re not talking about a legislator who was born in 1937 either. Brad Boles is only 37 years old. Technically he’s an elder millennial.
Viewers watching the live broadcast were shocked to hear the phrase, with the Oklahoma ACLU quickly making a statement.
“It is disgraceful that in 2021 we still have elected officials like Rep. Boles use racist rhetoric such as ‘colored’ on the floor of the People’s house. Rep. Boles and his colleagues should not only commit to engaging in conversations about race equity work with the experts in our state, but also actively check their colleagues on problematic behavior,” ACLU of Oklahoma wrote in a press release Tuesday evening.
“A slip of the tongue”
In his inevitable apology, Rep. Boles told local media he made a “slip of the tongue.”
A slip of the tongue? A child accidentally cursing in front of his parents is a slip of the tongue. A 37-year-old state lawmaker using a derogatory phrase from an era he wasn’t even alive to experience is more than a slip of the tongue.
When someone uses that phrase, they’re usually referring to something they normally say privately that they know they shouldn’t have said publicly. Rep Boles is from Marlow. Perhaps Marlow’s history as a racially hostile sundown town up until 1990 gives us a clue into how that phrase could have entered Rep. Boles’ vocabulary. But at least he apologized right?
TheBWSTimes reached out to Rep. Boles in an email. When asked what would cause him, in 2021, to refer to any Black person as “colored,” he responded:
“It was a slip of the tongue that was not at all what I intended to say, nor who I am in my heart.”
Let’s pause there. Why is it that whenever a White person in a position of power is called out for their racist deeds, they quickly attempt an appeal to the heart? Do they assume that because most of us aren’t qualified to perform cardiac surgery that we’ll simply say “oh ok, then?”
He may know who he is in his heart, but his mouth revealed who he is in his mind. And whether someone intends to commit a racist act or not, the impact is what matters. Actions have consequences. Some people may be wondering at what point can this White man be saved. Based on his lackluster apology, he’s already burnt wonder bread.
Minority Shield Approach
In the “apology,” the legislator then goes on to bring up his Native heritage, a tactic I like to call the “minority shield approach.” It’s when individuals use their Tribal affiliation to hide their racism. But was Boles concerned with his Tribal affiliation when he wrote a white-washed Op-Ed celebrating Thanksgiving Day?
My Indigenous colleague and our political correspondent, Sarah Gray, didn’t hold back in her response, saying “The perpetuation of that racist rendition of the Thanksgiving story is an act of violence and erasure that no Native person would ever say privately let alone submit it to a paper to publish. It’s insulting AF that he would try and use his citizenship to a tribe he clearly has no respect for as cover for his racism.”
This isn’t us canceling Boles. We’ll leave that up to his constituents. But considering they voted him in, I won’t hold my breath.