A racially charged Facebook comment by a Tennessee State Representative is the feature of today’s blog entry.
Shelia Butt (R-TN) is a State Representative in Tennessee and the Republican Majority Floor Leader. Last week, Butt was on Facebook and responding to a note in which the Council of American-Islamic Relations called on Republican Presidential candidates to reject Islamophobia and engage Muslim voters. In response, Butt commented:
“It is time for a Council on Christian Relations and an NAAWP in this Country.”
So, what’s the problem? The NAAWP has been widely interpreted to be a take-off on the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, standing for the National Association for the Advancement of White People. Why is that such a standard interpretation? Because that exact group was founded by David Duke, known White Supremacist and former political candidate.
Butt, however, says her comment has been misinterpreted and that the “WP” stood for “Western People” (If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you). Butt then spun the incident into a generic attack on liberals, saying:
“It saddens me that we have come to a place in our society where every comment by a conservative is automatically scrutinized as being racist. Instead of realizing my post was actually about making sure that every race, religion, gender, and culture has a seat at the table, liberal groups have once again incorrectly and falsely jumped the gun.”
Butt also defended her comments in a speech on the floor of the Tennessee House of Representatives, where she said she never meant to be offensive but that the First Amendment allowed her to speak her mind.
Obviously, her explanation of the Facebook post was widely rejected. In a statement, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said: “This bit of not-too-subtle racism should be repudiated by the Republican Party leaders in Tennessee and nationwide. The Republican Party must distance itself from those who espouse racist or Islamophobic views.”
Added Mary Maricini, chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, “At a time when nearly 300,000 hardworking Tennesseans don’t have healthcare because Republicans refuse to support Insure Tennessee, it is disappointing to see Rep. Butt spending her time spreading her own poisonous personal beliefs on Facebook instead of focusing on passing legislation that would help hundreds of thousands of hardworking Tennesseans across the state.”
My favorite response, however, comes from Greg Hanners, chair of the Maury County Democratic Party: “Western Christians, we own the table. It’s our table. Why do we need a seat? It’s ridiculous.”
The Tennessee Black Caucus also called on Representative Butt to apologize and to be removed from her leadership post.
No sane person could ever truly believe that Representative Butt’s comments were about Western People. They were about White People, plain and simple. Whether or not Butt truly realized what she was saying is up for debate, but there’s simply no excuse for toxic comments like this.