Since taking office last month, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) has proposed cutting funding for historically black colleges, abolishing state offices that support minority-owned businesses, and exploited the Voting Rights Act to rig the state’s re-districing process. Yesterday, the Miami Herald reports, Scott further alienated black lawmakers when he “implied that all black lawmakers grew up poor“:
“I grew up probably in the same situation as you guys,” Scott said to the group of 20 Democrats. “I started school in public housing. My dad had a sixth-grade education.”
Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, said she was offended by the remark, but did not protest at the time because she said it was more important to have a productive dialogue with the new governor.
Afterward, she said, “He assumed that everyone [in the room] was poor and that can only be because you’re black.”
Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, said Scott’s choice of words was unfortunate even if he was trying to “empathize” with the black caucus.
“Some of us might be from the projects, but we come from all spectrums of life,” Gibbons said.
Scott is only the latest conservative governor to make offensive racial comments. Last month, Tea Party Governor Paul Lepage (I-ME) told the NAACP to “kiss my butt” while Missippi Governor Haley Barbour has refused to denounce a proposed state license plate honoring an early leader of the KKK. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich (R) told a black lawmaker, “I don’t need your people,” and only appointed a member of a racial minority to his cabinet after coming under intense pressure from progressive groups. And during his gubernatorial campaign this fall, Scott told voters that schools with high African-American populations have “different issues” and advocated for an Arizona style immigration law that would have exempted white immigrants.
After the luncheon, one state senator asked Scott to be “sensitive” to his own background and remember people from the “projects” “don’t want a handout, but some jobs.” Scott has ignored this advice: Today, he announced he would kill a federally funded high-speed rail project that would have created 23,000 jobs. His proposed budget will eliminate a program that grants contracts to minority businesses, even while giving more than $2 billion in tax cuts for corporations. And after two months in office, Scott has yet to appoint a racial minority to lead a state agency. His policies have proved to be as insensitive to Florida’s minorities as the comments he made yesterday.