Kansas Board of Education member Steve Roberts (R), an elected official representing one-tenth of the state, defended on Tuesday his use of a racial epithet at a previous board meeting to “push the frontiers of political correctness.” After a former Topeka NAACP president advocated for more African American history in state curriculum standards, Roberts had brought up an unrelated non-binding 2007 New York City resolution discouraging the use of the “N-word” and other offensive language.
Roberts, a former math tutor who was first elected to the board last November, had delivered a monologue to the Rev. Ben Scott at the April board meeting during a discussion on history, government, and social studies standards. Roberts complained that New York City had banned the same racial slur that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had used (in quoting racist police forces and other segregationists) in his famous 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” saying:
We have to push the frontiers of political correctness and do what’s right. And so, if I were to use it clinically, I would almost use a test to see what the effect on Twitter would be. You know, ‘That Roberts guy said nigger at the state school board meeting, and he said it as, it’s probably the ugliest word in our vocabulary.’ It’s an ugly repugnant absolutely horrific word that we should rise above. But I did get it out there and I appreciate the opportunity to do it in a politically correct setting.
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According to Topeka Capital-Journal reports, when Scott and other civil rights leaders expressed their concern about those comments at Tuesday’s board meeting, Roberts stood by his remarks.
“I did my best to say the ‘N-word’ clinically,” he noted, adding “I’m willing to be considered politically incorrect … I don’t think that’s a bad thing.” Roberts then accused those criticizing his comments as only wanting media attention.