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SPOTLIGHT
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Racism lives on

Published on -4/16/2013, 11:04 AM

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Editor's note: The following editorial contains offensive language.

When states enact laws declaring English as the official language, the common claim for justification is ease of communicating. While we suspect such legislation generally contains at least a hint of xenophobia or racist undertone, we've never thought such moves were prompted by the fact the language is so straightforward.

English is complicated. The rules are riddled with exceptions; nuance is difficult to decipher; words go in and out of fashion.

And then there is the notion of emotionally charged vernacular, which often appears in slang.

One Saline County commissioner is on the hotseat for uttering such a word -- and then bungling the attempts to rationalize its use.

At a public meeting two weeks ago to discuss whether an architect should be hired for a county roof repair project, Commissioner Jim Gile said: "I guarantee it would be the same if you go to n


--rigging it."

Seriously. This politician used a word so offensive we won't even print it, but we'll tell you it rhymes with "bigger."

When asked what he said, Gile instinctively went with something he apparently considered more politically acceptable: "Afro-Americanized it." Nervous laughter followed from throughout the room.

Since then, Commissioner Gile has been under fire. Despite an apology, condemnations were issued from both the Kansas Republican Party and the Kansas Young Republicans. Many have called for his resignation, although fellow commissioners want people to forgive the racial slurs.

"He made the statement," said Saline County Commission Chairman Randy Duncan. "He recognized he was wrong. We all recognize it was wrong and it was not the appropriate thing to say."

"I think the right thing to do is to forgive and move on and put this behind us," Duncan said.

Even Gile's apology appeared to underscore either his true feelings or an inability to grasp the power of words. In an attempt to prove he wasn't prejudiced, Gile noted he had built many Habitat for Humanity homes for "colored people."

That such sentiment exists 150 years past the Civil War and 50 years beyond the Civil Rights movement is both disgusting and sad. Still, it doesn't surprise.

But it has absolutely no place at any level of government, which exists to serve all people. The 3.5 percent of Saline County's population that is black has been denied equal personhood. They should be outraged. So should the other 96.5 percent.

This is not a forgive-and-forget situation. Commissioner Giles has displayed blatant disregard for the very oath of office he accepted just months ago -- to support the U.S. and Kansas constitutions. Both are unambiguous about the equality of all citizens. To right these repeated wrongs, Commissioner Gile should resign immediately.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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