Only two black Arizona lawmakers chastised for calling out GOP colleague’s use of racial slur

The only two black members of the Arizona Legislature were formally reprimanded for calling out a Republican lawmaker’s use of a racial slur.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that the majority of House Republicans voted to formally rebuke Democratic Reps. Reginald Bolding and Geraldine Peten — the only two black members — for speaking out against offensive language.

Rep. Maria Syms (R) wrote a column published in The Arizona Republic on Wednesday that included a derogatory term for African-Americans from a song by Kendrick Lamar.

The newspaper has since updated the article to remove the offensive term.


Syms criticized the leaders of the #RedforEd teacher walkout movement and suggested the “political operatives” were radicalizing Arizona youth with hip-hop lessons.

Bolding slammed the article on the House floor Wednesday, saying it was trying to discredit educator Noah Karvelis for teaching students about a black entertainer.

“The more I read the more I was disappointed that it appears to be OK to use racial slurs about black people in the article,” Bolding said. “Let me be crystal clear: It’s not acceptable to use a racial slur even if that slur is used as a quote.”

“No one in this chamber would think its OK to use a racial slur in print or out loud about Jewish, Latino, Asian, Native, LGBTQ, Anglo or any other group of people,” Bolding continued. 

Peten echoed those comments, igniting a political storm with Republicans.

Speaker J.D. Mesnard (R) said their comments violated House rules of decorum and debate.

“I don’t know why it’s so hard to follow the rules,” Mesnard said. “It doesn’t matter whether you are white or black or brown on whatever the color the color of your skin is, you follow the House rules.”

Syms defended the article and accused Karvelis of using the racially charged language in his classroom.

Karvelis rejected the notion that he used a racial slur in class and said the lawmaker’s comments were “just a distraction,” the AP reported. 

Teachers want a 20 percent pay raise and more overall education funding. Their strike begins Thursday.

There are 73 districts and charter schools closed, including the state’s 10 largest districts.

Tags Geraldine Peten hip hop music Kendrick Lamar Kendrick Lamar Maria Syms Racial slurs Reginald Bolding teachers strike

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