“And they make a man an offender for a word. . .”2 Nephi 27:32; Isaiah 29:21

He has stepped on a land mine again. According to the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, and other news sources, Utah State Senator Chris Buttars said the following: “This baby is black, I’ll tell you. This is a dark, ugly thing[.]” Senator Howard Stephenson already called Senate Bill 48 “the ugly baby bill”. This bill was apparently designed to aid in the transition of the split of the Jordan School District in equalizing capital outlays for building new schools. The Utah Democratic Party is also supporting the bill in spite of Sen. Buttars comments. The news reporting about Sen. Buttars comment is drowning out the discussion about public funding for public school buildings.

The comment from Sen. Buttars shows a lack of appreciation of the current political environment, inartful wording, and racial insensitivity, not racism.  The bill was already called an “ugly baby”.  Sen. Buttars added on with words that are racially charged and have additional meanings that make sense in the context of the debate.  According to this dictionary, “black” can also mean deliberately harmful, inexcusable, without any moral quality or goodness.  “Dark” can mean evil, iniquitous, or wicked.  “Ugly” can mean disagreeable, unpleasant, and morally revolting.  Sen. Buttars certainly could have picked better words for disagreeing with the bill.

On the day of the comment made, it was brought to Sen. Buttars attention that he had breached the rules of decorum on the Senate floor. He immediately apologized for his comments and later left early for the day. Sen. Buttars also issued an apology to people who were offended by his remarks. Jeanetta Williams who currently heads the NAACP in Salt Lake City at first accepted the apology, then remembered prior comments by Sen. Buttars and decided to call for his resignation. Ms. Williams has been leading the NAACP of Salt Lake for approximately 16 years. As of two years ago, there has never been an independent audit of the funds of the organization and there have been other irregularities and complaints about Ms. Williams administration of the local organization.

Sen. Buttars also stated that he thought a certain school desegregation case was wrong too, tried to re-word his statement and ultimately to justify his beliefs based on the outcomes of the case without success. A better argument may have been that the national government should not be involved in local educational decisions and about the proper nature and role of the government but the point was never raised by Sen. Buttars.

Former Mayor Rocky Anderson once told James Evans, a black leader of the Salt Lake County Republican party that “to show slavish, blind obedience and deference to a dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights-violating president” is a bad thing.  “Slavish” can mean like a slave, or to blindly imitate something in a sycophantic way.  It is impossible to know for sure if Mr. Anderson meant to be intentionally offensive and hide behind the other meanings of the word slavish but that his words were pointedly addressed to a black individual is suspect.

However one may feel about these episodes, political discourse has degenerated to the point that the real issues are being shoved to the wayside while the public debates about whether or not someone should resign for having an opinion too far out of the mainstream.  There have been several controversies about the word “niggardly” which means stingy, miserly, or not generous.  The etymology of the word comes from the Norwegian word nigle and is similar to the word niggling that means trifling, small, or petty.  The other prohibited “N-word” comes from the Spanish, Portuguese, French, or Latin word negro, noir, or niger which all mean “black”.

Most of these complaints about racism have no substance to them.  Most politicians are actually victims of their enemies that make a big deal out of nothing.

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