Last week, State Senator Frank Artiles made national headlines when he used the n-word in a conversation with two of his black colleagues, after calling one of them a “bitch” and a “fucking asshole.”
As a member of the Florida Black Legislative Caucus, I was disappointed. I was disgusted. I was outraged. But I was not surprised.
Artiles has a long history of making racist, sexist, and inflammatory comments. And he’s not the only one. It has only been a year since a public servant, former Assistant State Attorney Ken Lewis, called the people of Orlando “third world miscreants and ghetto thugs.”
And it has just been a month since an official in Seminole County, Stan McCullars, said Aramis Ayala, Florida’s first Black elected State Attorney, “should be tarred and feathered if not hung from a tree.”
The blatant racism coming from Florida public officials rears its head in less obvious ways, as well. Currently, we’re watching Governor Rick Scott and the Florida State Legislature siphon power from Ayala, in an effort to bully her into agreeing with Scott’s political beliefs on the death penalty. Rep. Scott Plakon seems so intent on blocking my vote for a replacement for our state statue of a Confederate general at the U.S. Capitol ― Black civil rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune ― that as chair of the committee he insists on Walt Disney, who never even lived in the state.
Senator Artiles resigned today, and that’s a good thing. Racist diatribes have no place in our state. But it is not only racist rhetoric, but racist action that requires addressing.
Florida’s Black elected officials are citizens and leaders of this state. We have worked too hard and sacrificed too much to be treated like the help. And the citizens of this state who voted us into office―whether as a legislator or as a State Attorney must be honored and respected. Whether you are a county clerk or a governor, if you serve the people of Florida, we are not asking for your respect, we are demanding it.