‘This Behavior Has to Stop’

(Sept. 5) – The 15 members of the Black Democratic Legislative Caucus of Colorado and the Colorado Democratic Latin@ Caucus denounced Rep. Lori Saine today for her fried-chicken “silent protest” defense of Sen. Vicki Marble, who outraged many Coloradans with remarks stereotyping African-Americans, Hispanics and their diets.

A joint statement from the two caucuses reads:

“There is no doubt about Rep. Lori Saine’s conduct. It was deliberate and malicious. Her mocking, taunting attitude proves that she is out of touch with racial concerns in our society and our state. Her actions were unacceptable. We call on the leaders of the legislative Republicans, the leadership of the Colorado Republican Party and even Sen. Vicki Marble to denounce Rep. Saine’s deeply offensive behavior. It’s time for GOP leadership to lead and show they don’t tolerate these types of behavior.

“This behavior has to stop. We cannot allow out-of-touch, out-of-date actions to distract us from the real work of tackling the daunting problems of poverty in Colorado.”

The chairwoman of the five-member Black Democratic Legislative Caucus is Rep. Angela Williams (D-Denver). The Colorado Democratic Latin@ Caucus has 10 members and its co-chairman is Rep. Joe Salazar (D-Thornton).

According to 2011 data, almost 700,000 Coloradans live in poverty. More than 28 percent of the African-American population and 24 percent of Hispanics live below the federal poverty level. Nine percent of the white population lives in poverty in Colorado.

The current episode began two weeks ago, when Sen. Marble (R-Fort Collins) took the microphone at a meeting of the Economic Opportunity and Poverty Reduction Task Force to make a rambling statement that linked poverty among African-American and Latino Coloradans to their diets. She seemed to link sickle-cell anemia and diabetes to barbecue and chicken, and said Hispanics south of the border eat healthier food than their counterparts in the United States.

Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora), who also sits on the task force, said she was “highly offended” by Sen. Marble’s remarks. Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call distanced the party from Sen. Marble’s remarks and called them “careless,” and the Denver Post editorial board characterized them as “finger-lickin’ stupid.”

On Thursday, at the first meeting of the Economic Opportunity and Poverty Reduction Task Force since Sen. Marble’s remarks, Rep. Saine (R-Dacono) put a box of Popeye’s Fried Chicken on the table in what she said was a “silent protest” of the criticism of Sen. Marble. Interviewed later by Fox 31 Denver, Rep. Saine laughed and repeatedly declined to explain her actions other than to say, “I’m having chicken for dinner.”

Adrian Miller, who is executive director of the Colorado Council of Churches but was speaking only on his own behalf, added:

“I think Senator Marble was probably speaking out of ignorance, but Representative Saine did what she did on purpose. This is beneath the dignity of anyone, but is especially reprehensible for an elected official. I hope Representative Saine will give a meaningful apology and we can work toward coming together rather than being divisive.

“Stories about African-Americans eating chicken and watermelon have long been used to send the message that these people are a childlike race, incapable of full citizenship and unworthy of full civil rights,” added Miller, who is the author of a book about soul food culture. “Anyone who includes ‘chicken’ and ‘watermelon’ in any sentence about African-Americans is just asking for trouble.”

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