Offensive speech without apologies

Virgil Peck compared undocumented migrants to feral pigs.

In the “In case we thought we were post-racial” department, we’ve got a couple of doozies.

The first comes from Kansas, where State Rep. Virgil Peck recently compared undocumented immigrants to “feral pigs” who should be shot from a helicopter.

According to Talking Points Memo,

The state’s House Appropriations Committee was debating financing for controlling the feral swine problem, theLawrence Journal World reports, when one legislator suggested the problem could be handled by shooting them from helicopters. Peck offered: “It looks like to me if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works maybe we have found a [solution] to our illegal immigration problem.”

The second comes from former Fab Five member and ESPN analyst Jalen Rose, who called black players who went to Duke University like Grant Hill “Uncle Toms.”

In an open online letter on The New York Times’ web site, Hill responded, giving the Fab Five of Chris Webber, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson, Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard their due, but also calling Rose’s comments “sad and somewhat pathetic.”

The reality that people hold and use stereotypical language about people from the same and different racial and ethnic backgrounds is not particularly surprising.

What to me is more disturbing is the lack of acknowledgment or seeing of a need for a retraction when confronted by others with their words.

When asked if he should rethink or phrase differently what he said,  Peck stood his ground, and even made his manner a speech a point of pride of place.

Scott Rothschild of the Journal World reports Peck as saying, when asked about the comment, that he was just joking:

Asked about his comment, Peck was unapologetic. “I was just speaking like a southeast Kansas person,” he said.

He said most of his constituents are extremely upset with illegal immigration and the state and federal government response.

He said he didn’t expect any further controversy over his comment. “I think it’s over,” he said.

For his part, Rose, whose comments came to light in a recent documentary about the twentieth anniversary of the Fab Five, said that he made those statements when he was 17 years old, according to an article on ESPN’s web site:

Rose said earlier this week about his comments: “That’s what I thought when I was 17” but didn’t back away from what he said.

What do you think?  Does language make a difference?  Is it better if someone stands by offensive speech than offers a forced apology? Does focusing on these statements miss the point about how to address larger inequalities in our society?

One response to “Offensive speech without apologies

  1. Pingback: Robert Traylor’s Death, Fab Five Reconsidered | Jeff Kelly Lowenstein's Blog

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