Republican state Sen. Marty Knollenberg of Michigan has some damage control to do after remarks he made during an education-committee meeting in Lansing on Thursday sparked outrage, WXYZ reports.
While addressing the issue of failing school districts, and the statistical fact that most children suffering are of color, Knollenberg, from Troy, responded, “You mentioned these school districts failing, and you mention economically disadvantaged and nonwhite population[s] are the contributors to that. I know we can’t fix that. We can’t make an African American white. That’s just—it is what it is.”
State School Reform Officer Natasha Baker, who was present at the meeting, responded, “We didn’t get here because someone is poor. We didn’t get here because someone is black. We got here for a variety of reasons.”
But the backlash didn’t stop there, with fellow lawmakers also denouncing Knollenberg for his remark.
“I was disgusted to hear any human, especially an elected official who is responsible for creating policy, to talk that way,” Democratic Rep Brian Banks of Detroit told the news station. “It is clear that you have some built-in racism. It is clear you are out of touch with reality. As an elected official, as one of your colleagues, you owe us an apology.”
“It was as racist a comment as anyone can make,” David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan, added. “It is scary to think an elected official thinks that.”
Knollenberg defended himself, saying that his remark was taken out of context, and agreed that race was not the real problem. “If they knew me, they would know that I am not racist at all,” he said. “I have an African-American employee who works for me.
“I can apologize to people who felt [offended],” the lawmaker added. “My passion is for improving education and making sure every single child gets a good education. We should not have failing schools anywhere.”
Read more at WXYZ.