The racial incident that Democrat leaders in the House and Senate thought they had swept under the rug last week has now erupted into a raging fire.
Last week, State Senator Jack Hatch told Rep. Abdul-Samad, member of the House Human Resources committee, that Democratic statehouse leaders were treating them like, “[N words], like master and slaves.” Knowing that the incident would create chaos and another round of bad news coverage for Hatch and Iowa Democrats, legislative leaders were able to prevent the Register from reporting on the story until Saturday, a day when very few people read the paper.
While their tactics initially worked as they had planned, the story is now on the front burner. On Monday, Sen. Hatch apologized to his colleagues in the Senate and sent the following email to all legislators and staff.
Dear colleagues and legislative staff,
I am writing to apologize for a comment I made last week. As legislators, our comments reflect on everyone, and last Wednesday I made an inappropriate reference. It was wrong and inexcusable. We are to reflect Iowa values, and Iowans are a tolerant group. Our values embrace diversity and legislators need to reflect our highest standards. Last Wednesday, I failed that standard and for that, I am sorry. It will never happen again.
If you want to discuss this with me, please seek me out.
Apparently, Rep. Abdul-Samad and Rep. Wayne Ford took Sen. Hatch up on his offer for further discussion. The two Representatives and other African-American leaders met privately with Senator Hatch on Monday night to discuss the incident further.
Sen. Hatch apologized to the group that night, but Linda Carter-Lewis, president of the Des Moines chapter of the NAACP said, “Words, once spoken, cannot be retracted or erased. Senator Hatch will suffer the consequences for his actions.” Thus far, besides some public embarrassment, Senator Hatch has not had to deal with any real consequences for his self-described despicable remarks.
There are a lot of people who are still upset with Hatch’s comments. Our post on the subject has generated over nearly 2000 unique page views, containing over forty comments. According to his legislative assistant, Sen. Hatch has received over 2800 emails about the subject, and the longest serving African-American in the legislature, Rep. Wayne Ford, isn’t sure if his relationship with Hatch will ever be the same.
So why hasn’t there been ANY official sanction from the House or Senate condemning Hatch’s comments?
The reactions by Rep. Abdul-Samad, and Rep. Wayne Ford are justified, and since the occurrence took place in the House chamber, the House should offer a non-binding resolution condemning Sen. Hatch’s behavior. The House cannot censure a non-member, but at least it would send a clear message to all Iowans that such language will not be tolerated. Even if the House does pass a resolution, the Senate should also take official action against Hatch by censuring him.
It seems as if those in the legislature think this is just an internal issue that needs to be dealt with behind closed doors. They need to realize that, by not officially condemning Hatch’s comment, they are sending a terrible message to all Iowans that says what happens in Des Moines, stays in Des Moines.
Sen. Hatch apologizing to his collogues and meeting with a few select African-American leaders was the appropriate thing to do. But as Linda Carter-Lewis said, Hatch must deal with the consequences of his actions. Censuring Sen. Hatch sends the message that Iowans will not tolerate racist behavior. Just letting him apologize to a few select people sends the opposite message, especially to our youth.
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