Followed briefly by Pres. Donald Trump’s reported “sX$@hole” countries statement, comments by KS Rep. Steve Alford questioning the genetic makeup of African Americans faded quickly from the media focus. But, if the NAACP and a group of other concerned citizens have their way, Alford will pay for his statements with a resignation from his position in the Kansas House.
Earlier this month, Alford, a Republican from Ulysses in Western Kansas, was caught on tape during a legislative forum in Garden City, espousing the negative character and genetics of African Americans. In case you missed the video, here’s what Alford said about why marijuana was made illegal”
“One of the reasons why, I hate to say it, was that the African-Americans, they were basically users and they basically responded the worst off of those drugs just because of their character makeup, their genetics and that,” the GOP legislator said. “And so, basically, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to do a complete reverse with people not remembering what has happened in the past.”
The statement was made on Sat., Jan. 6, and on Mon., Jan. 8, Alford apologized.
“I was wrong,” the lawmaker said in a written statement. “I regret my comments and I sincerely apologize to anyone whom I have hurt.”
In addition, Alford stepped down as chairman of the House Children and Seniors Committee and as vice chairman of a joint legislative task force on child welfare.
But that isn’t enough, said Kenya Cox, president of the Kansas State Organization of NAACP Branches.
“These racially charged and insensitive comments are erroneous, inaccurate and demonstrate a fundamental flaw in Representative Alford’s judgment and reveal his core beliefs,” wrote Cox in a letter to Rep. Ron Ryckman, Speaker of the Kansas House. “Let the record reflect that there is no place in Kansas Leadership for someone with the views held by Rep. Alford. Although he has apologized for his insensitive comments, the blow of his narrow-minded biases has already been felt.”
KS Rep Valdenia Winn, a Democrat from Kansas City, agrees with Cox and the NAACP, saying giving up his committee assignments isn’t enough.
“Until he resigns from the Legislature, there is no difference,” Winn told the Lawrence Journal World. “You owe that to your constituents and the state of Kansas.”
Interestingly, Winn was the subject of a hearing for misconduct allegations in 2015 when she called those who supported the bill “racists bigots.” The charges, which could have possibly led to Winn’s censorship, were ultimately dismissed, but Winn leaned on her rights to freedom of speech in her own defense.
That same freedom of speech is why KS Sen David Haley, a Democratic from Kansas City, says Alford should not be forced to resign.
“I in no way agree with, or find any merit in these ludicrous beliefs or statements made openly by Rep. Alford,” said Haley. However, “it is my firmly held belief that expression and beliefs should be freely shared…. Squelching free expression, free speech, and open dialogue is not only unconstitutional but, in a deeper vein, decidedly immoral.”
We reached KS Rep Gail Finney, a Democrat from Wichita, by telephone, and she was in agreement with Haley. Alford’s statement, she said, don’t rise to a level that warrant his resignation.
A care2 online petition calling for Alford’s resignation has already gathered 44,000 signatures, but only 486 of the signatures are from Kansans.