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Rep. Ryan Winkler: Open Mouth, Insert Foot

June 26, 2013

I’m sick of politicians and politics in general, but I’m really tired of these politicians who open their mouths before stopping to think about what they’re saying. The most recent example is Minnesota Representative Ryan Winkler (D).

Yesterday, in response to the Supreme Court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Representative Winkler sent out a Tweet saying, “VRA majority is four accomplices to race discrimination and one Uncle Thomas.”

Ryan Winkler Tweet

How does that toe jam taste, Mr. Ryan?

Mr. Winkler deleted his Tweet after finding out it was offensive and he issued an apology where he said he did not understand “Uncle Tom” to be a racist term. He also let us know that there appears to be some debate about whether or not it really is a racist term.

Seriously?

We’re seriously supposed to believe this? Ryan Winkler is 37 years old. He’s a Harvard graduate and he obtained a Juris Doctor graduate degree from the University of Minnesota. He’s an elected member of the Minnesota House of Representatives. This is a well-educated man; smart and successful. Does anyone really believe that a person of his age and education would not know, or not understand, that referring to an African American as “Uncle Tom” is a racist term? For crying out loud, the phrase is even in the dictionary! No, I believe he knew what he was saying, was maybe (in his defense) trying to be funny (?), didn’t realize the fallout he’d receive as a result and then tried to backpedal the only way a professional politician knows how to backpedal which is by lying.

In his apology Tweet, Representative Winkler said he “… didn’t think it was offensive to suggest that Justice Thomas should be even more concerned about racial discrimination than colleagues.” and he followed that up a minute later with, “But if such a suggestion is offensive, I apologize.” Thirteen minutes later he Tweeted another apology but added at the end, “…but believe VRA decision does abet racism.”

Well, I can’t disagree with the last part. I think it does too, and I think it will.

So Winkler made a boo-boo and he apologized by claiming ignorance. I’m not saying the man is a racist so please don’t think that. I don’t know Mr. Winkler and I don’t know anything about him other than what I pick up on the news. And while I admit that it’s possible for someone who is not a racist to make a racist remark, I think his apology falls flat. He claims he didn’t know the term was considered racist, yet in his apology for using for using an ethnic slur he said he didn’t think it was offensive to suggest that Justice Thomas concern himself with a matter of racial discrimination. Those two comments don’t balance in my book. In addition, he had no epithets for the other four members of the majority, just the one African American member. Why single him out from the others? Why not focus on the Chief Justice instead? Better yet, why not simply focus on the positive comments from the dissenters instead? Added up, the whole thing is upsetting to someone who is apparently too naïve and still wants to believe the system can/does/will work and the Representative’s apology and excuse, however well-intentioned, seem a little shady to me.

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

We still have such a long way to travel.

File under: Another Politician Who Can’t Keep His Mouth Shut.

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