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Huffington Post reported that Kansas Education Board member Steve Roberts defended himself on Tuesday after facing criticism over his use of a racial slur at a mid-April meeting while arguing that his colleagues were embracing standards that were too “politically correct.”
Roberts first addressed his concerns to Ben Scott, past president of the Topeka NAACP and author of the education standards under consideration. He spoke about how the standards might be basically too careful regarding the n-word. He invoked Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” stating that the document featured the n-word and therefore suggested that the use of the word in the letter was a reason not to be so sensitive about the slur.
The Lawrence Journal-World relays Roberts’ words :
“And as I call up the Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Roberts said, “that N-word — and we all know what I’m talking about — it is in this document twice. So, I guess I really don’t have a question so much as an admonition that we have to push the frontiers of political correctness, and do what’s right.”
“So, if I was to use it clinically,” Roberts continued, “I would almost do a test to see what the effect on Twitter would be. ‘You know that Roberts guy said n—– in a school board meeting. And he said it as, it’s probably the ugliest word in our vocabulary.’ It’s an utterly repugnant, absolutely horrific word that we should rise above. But I did get it out there, and I appreciate the opportunity to do that. I wish you luck, sir.”
Other black leaders in Topeka are offended and have called Roberts’ remarks unnecessary and inappropriate, the Associated Press reported, saying they had heard from many people who were disgusted by his use of the n-word. “People who have looked at it have been very upset about it,” said Carolyn Campbell, the only black member of the board, according to the AP. She explained that some wondered if he “was doing it for media attention.”
Campbell went on to claim that Roberts had failed to make his use of the n-word a teachable moment. (As if that would make the situation ant better) “It was offensive to me due to the insensitive way it was implied that Reverend Dr. King used this word as part of his vocabulary on a regular basis,” she said. “My concern was it was never clear why he mentioned Dr. King and that letter.”
Roberts claims that he attempted to use the word “clinically,” and said he stands strong on his opinion and us of the remark “100 percent,” the Capitol-Journal reported.
“One reason I brought it up was because it actually was the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ which is one of the greatest documents I’ve ever read, and he used [the n-word] twice,” Roberts said, according to the Journal-World. “And I love getting out of the box, and I love developing a reputation for being willing to be politically incorrect. And I think it’s pretty evident there are some people who feel I was very politically incorrect.”
Do you feel that he was out of line, or justified for what he said?