Woodward Offers Weird “Apology” For Racist Language

State Senator Rob Woodward (R-Loveland) stuck both feet in his mouth on Saturday during a discussion about legislation regarding debt collection practices. Woodward used the analogy of “stepping on necks” and then added the phrase “colored people” for good measure.

Here’s the video via Alex Burness of The Denver Post:

On Monday, Woodward stepped up to the Senate well to offer an apology that included blaming a Senate staffer for a bad transcription — Woodward’s Saturday remarks were referring to comments from State Sen. Julie Gonzales (D-Denver) made during a Senate Finance committee meeting last week — as well as the baffling claim that he didn’t know it was wrong to use the phrase “colored people.”

Here’s Woodward’s bizarre explanation:

If I can be honest, political correctness always makes me nervous when I speak about African-Americans or minorities. There are times when I’ve been afraid to speak because I don’t want to offend someone. Back to the transcription: I own it. I should have proofread it better. I should have gone back to the audio to make sure she actually said those words. I should have been alarmed at the words that were on paper. I wasn’t.

It was also because I didn’t know the historical context of those words. I knew they were part of the name of the NAACP, but I didn’t know much else. I learned that they were used as a pejorative in the 1960s. I learned that they were still used in racist circles today. But this phrase is not something that has ever come up in my life experience. [Pols emphasis]

Whaaaaat? You really weren’t aware that the phrase “colored people” was offensive?

Woodward says some good things in his apology, but it’s hard to take any of it seriously when he claims to be ignorant about the negative connotation of the phrase “colored people.” Was he cryogenically frozen for the last 50 years?

It’s worth noting here that back in 2012, Woodward reportedly threatened to fire any of his employees who dared to vote for President Obama’s re-election.

(Woodward also uses the old “if you were offended by my words, I apologize” apology, which nobody should ever do. Always be apologetic for what you said or did, not for how people reacted).

Woodward’s full remarks can be seen and heard on the state legislative YouTube channel. You can read a word-for-word transcription after the jump…

 

 

State Sen. Rob Woodward (R-Loveland)

State Sen. Rob Woodward (R-Loveland), speaking on the Senate floor on Monday, June 8, 2020:

On Saturday, I stood in this well and uttered two phrases that were offensive. For that, I am sorry. Those phrases were uttered in ignorance, not out of hate or spite. I’ve had the chance to seek wisdom from a few of my friends, some of whom happen to be African-American legislators here in the Capitol. We spoke about the words. We spoke about experiences — theirs and mine. We come from different places, different times, different lives. They taught me about the history of those phrases, and about the history of those battles that continues inside and outside this building.

Each of us is human. We make mistakes. When I make a mistake, I would ask that you would give me a chance to learn. If we don’t give each other the space to learn, then the only alternative is to do battle, and that just drives us further apart. This should be a place where we rise above and seek to understand each other, and I’m committed to doing that.

Let me start by offering an apology to the good Senator from Denver. I attributed words to her that she did not say. On that morning, I asked Senate staff to provide me with a transcription of her opening remarks from committee, because they were powerful. One staff member made the mistake in the transcription. He feels terrible. When I received the transcription moments before the debate, I proofread it to make sure that I could pronounce the words.
You all know that I still get nervous when I approach this microphone. I then walked to the well and read aloud what I thought was a word-for-word transcription of her statement. You heard me stumble as I got to those words because they sounded offensive in the instant, but I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t want to stray from her statement. They are not words that I’ve ever used before. In a split second, I plowed through and read what was on the paper in front of me.

If I can be honest, political correctness always makes me nervous when I speak about African-Americans or minorities. There are times when I’ve been afraid to speak because I don’t want to offend someone. Back to the transcription: I own it. I should have proofread it better. I should have gone back to the audio to make sure she actually said those words. I should have been alarmed at the words that were on paper. I wasn’t.

It was also because I didn’t know the historical context of those words. I knew they were part of the name of the NAACP, but I didn’t know much else. I learned that they were used as a pejorative in the 1960s. I learned that they were still used in racist circles today. But this phrase is not something that has ever come up in my life experience.

I went on to use another phrase. I have heard the phrase used at the well by other members of both parties here in the Senate. I’ve heard it used by Ken Salazar when he referred to oil companies. I’ve heard it used by my grandpa back in Wyoming when we’d watch for rattlesnakes as a kid. Until two weeks ago, this phrase was a euphemism about the raw power used to subdue someone or something.

If you’re like me, the video of a bad cop kneeling on the neck of George Floyd plays over and over again in my head. That cop used inexcusable force to overpower Mr. Floyd. We all know that the cop was wrong, and his actions were evil, and he deserves the heavy hand of justice.

If you recall, I was trying to get your approval on an amendment that would prevent the government from using their raw power to garnish the wages of people who are suffering during this crisis. The image of George Floyd is how I pictured state government taking money from those who are struggling. As that image played in my head, I began to utter an offensive phrase on Saturday. I realized mid-sentence that I was about to say something that was too raw. In my mind, I stopped before I finished that phrase. But as I watched the video this weekend, I saw that my mouth was faster than my brain. You saw me stumble to a stop, and say something else, but I did finish that phrase.

If you were offended by my words I apologize. They came from a place of ignorance, not out of hate. I ask for your forgiveness. I ask that you use opportunities like these to teach me. I have learned from this experience and my friendship with a few of you has grown deeper.

There are some who would come to this well to double-down on their statements. There are some who would come for political cover. I come to you with a sincere apology for my words, and I ask for your forgiveness. The good Senator from Westminster reminded us that we need to choose our words carefully. I will work to do a better job. If I screw up, call me on it. I will work to understand. I’ll do my best to grant you the same grace.

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11 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. spaceman65 says:

    "If you were offended by my words I apologize. They came from a place of ignorance."  Seriously?!  You've walked this planet for a few decades, and you just now learned this?  You are either a big fucking liar, or a big fucking idiot.  Apology not accepted. 

  2. Diogenesdemar says:

    If I can be honest, political correctness always makes me nervous when I speak about African-Americans or minorities.

    “. . . it’s so much easier just to say what I’m thinking when I’m wearing my hood and can relax among all my beige peeps.”

  3. davebarnes says:

    Well, he does have an excuse.
    "The racial makeup of [Loveland] was 92.85% White, 0.37% Black, 0.69% Native American, 0.83% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 3.21% from other races, and 2.02% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.57% of the population."

  4. Voyageur says:

    I admit I am amused that “Colored People” is the language of Satan while “People of color” , which means exactly the same thing, rolls gently from the tongue of Jesus.

    pass me the fracking fluid, boys, pc lectures always make me ill.

    • JohnInDenver says:

      I had a Grandma who astonished the 1970-something me by referring to some citizens of her community as “the colored.”  I asked my Dad, who said it was a change, and probably an improvement on her description of people in the same neighborhood twenty years before as “the darkies.” 

      He then told me she was one who helped with the genealogy and application papers for one woman of that neighborhood to be inducted into the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  And voted for one of men of the neighborhood who was part of the train crew that worked with her husband to become a deacon at her church.  And went “visiting” in the neighborhood on many Sunday afternoons after services and a dinner on the grounds of the church.  My Dad’s lesson ended with something like… “the people who knew her liked when she visited them or had them come to visit her, and didn’t seem to mind what she called the whole community.”

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