Lobbyist’s comparing slavery to polygamy brings call for apology

The Utah State Capitol on the opening day of the Utah State Legislature Monday, Jan. 23, 2012.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawmakers are calling on a lobbyist to apologize after she gave Rep. Sandra Hollins, the only African American legislator serving on Utah’s governing body, a tag that said “slave” as part of a presentation to House Democrats on Thursday.

As the news spread across social media Friday, accusations of racism peppered talk on the Hill.

The lobbyist who gave the presentation, Sound Choices Coalition Director Angela Kelly, told the Deseret News that what she said was taken out of context and that there was “zero indication during the presentation” that anyone was upset with it, including Hollins.

The Thursday incident occurred while Kelly presented her thoughts on SB102 that would decriminalize polygamy — legislation that Kelly opposes.

Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, said Kelly placed the tag on her lunch tray as part of a demonstration where the lobbyist attempted to draw parallels between polygamy and slavery, saying both “strip away the identity of the individual.”

A few minutes later Hollins left the meeting, describing on Friday how she was quite “shocked” and felt belittled by Kelly’s action.

“I was the only African American in the room. I’m the only African American legislator and I’m the only one that got the name tag that said slave,” Hollins said.

She acknowledged Kelly’s argument that polygamist women are enslaved and said she’s spoken to people who’ve reached out to share their perspective on polygamy. Hollins said she “understands” the issues these women experience as well as the oppression that goes with it and emphasized she believes lawmakers need to push policy that’s going to help them get out of that situation.

“What I don’t understand is when people decide to use slavery as a way to build their political careers. Currently right now we have slaves in this state that are buried that are in unmarked graves that aren’t even identified,” Hollins said. “To me that’s a travesty. I think when you start looking at trying to build a political career or build your organization off of slavery — off of my ancestors — that’s where I have a problem.”

The Democratic Caucus released a statement Friday expressing regret for not shutting down the presentation sooner and called on Kelly to apologize for “racist and absolutely inappropriate” behavior.

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, who was in a different room when the incident occurred, cut into the presentation to tell Kelly that it is inappropriate to ever compare anything to slavery.

Kelly challenged this, saying: “I’m sorry, you are wrong. You are absolutely wrong. You cannot be closed-minded like that. You have to be willing to say ‘Maybe I don’t know everything about this issue.’ You’re closing off all options.”

To which Romero replied: “You offended members of our caucus.”

Legislators said they were disappointed that the presentation was allowed to continue for as long as it did.

“As a person of color here up at the Legislature, these are things that Rep. Hollins …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Utah News


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