Rep. Geoff Davis (R-KY), said on Saturday of Barack Obama “That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button.” Referring to adult African-American men as “boys” is, of course, a well-known trope of white supremacist discourse in the American south. Naturally, Davis came under criticism for being a racist. Equally naturally, Davis has now issued an apology. But As Marc Ambinder observes Davis can’t seem to apologize for what he actually did wrong:
My poor choice of words is regrettable and was in no way meant to impugn you or your integrity. I offer my sincere apology to you and ask for your forgiveness.
Though we may disagree on many issues, I know that we share the goal of a prosperous, secure future for our nation. My comment has detracted from the dialogue that we should all be having on legitimate policy differences and in no way reflects the personal and professional respect I have for you.
But nobody impugned Obama’s integrity here, the issue is that only racist white people refer to grown-up black men as “boy.” Obama and Davis are both in their fourties so it’s not even as if some much older member of congress engaged in the “poor choice of words” here. Meanwhile, it’s very difficult to infer anything about a person’s motives or general sentiments from a single incident, but it’s certainly not reassuring that Davis seems unwilling to grasp what the nature of the problem is here. You would think that a decent person who accidentally stumbled into a problem here would be more genuinely contrite.