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‘Unringing’ the bell E-mail
Thursday, 26 September 2013 12:08

By Hutchinson News, Sept. 22


Steve Roberts is likely not a racist. But we have to question the Kansas State Board of Education member’s judgment in the aftermath of the inappropriate comments he made last spring during a discussion on African-American history.

The Overland Park Republican wanted to correct his faux pas this week by reciting Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at a public discussion on free speech and the “N-word,” the Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

A sincere apology would have been a better option.

Four months later, Roberts should just move on – while pinning his hopes on the population’s willingness to forgive and its short collective memory.

Roberts can’t wash away his remarks – his usage of the “N-word” at a state board meeting in May – by reciting from memory one of the keynote messages from the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a feeble attempt to “unring” the bell. The words, given his recent history, would ring hollow.

Roberts used the “N-word” during a public discussion on race relations, citing that King had used it in his letter from a Birmingham, Ala., jail 50 years ago. That, he said, gave him the leeway to use it, adding that it was important to push the boundaries of political correctness.

Times have changed. What was acceptable in 1963 – be it the laws in place, the way people of color were treated or the words used to describe them – is not tolerated today.

When it comes to the “N-word,” pushing the boundaries of political correctness isn’t an option. There is no circumstance in today’s world where that word is acceptable. It is an ugly reference, filled with hatred, contempt and – to too many – painful memories. Roberts’ attempts to revisit history were ignorant and an embarrassment to the board he represents.

We should expect more from our elected officials.

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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