A Florida state senator apologized for using a racial slur and vulgar insults during a private, after-hours conversation with two African-American colleagues yesterday, but black lawmakers say that wasn’t enough and called for his removal.
Republican Sen. Frank Artiles, a Cuban-American from the Miami area, dropped the n-word to a pair of African-American colleagues in private conversation Monday night over drinks after 10 p.m. at the members-only Governors Club just steps from the state Capitol.
On Wednesday, Artiles gave the three-minute apology on the Senate floor as the chamber began its business for the day.
“I extend a heartfelt apology to my colleagues and to all of those I have offended,” said Artiles. “My harsh words have adversely reflected more on me than they could ever have on anyone else.”
He said that he tried to say his use of the word was actually “niggas” and explained that’s the way people speak in Hialeah, the city near Miami where he grew up. He said that his intention in using it was benign.
“I grew up in a diverse community. We share each other’s customs, cultures and vernacular,” said Artiles.
Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon, an African-American who serves as the Senate Democratic leader, said Artiles shouldn’t have used any variation of the word. “It is not acceptable in Hialeah for that to happen,” Braynon said. “It is not how they talk in Hialeah.
“To say that the ending of the word changes the connotation of it, I think the word may be asinine,” he continued. “Whether it’s -er, -a, -z, whatever it is, it’s offensive. It’s not something that anyone should be saying. No one should be called that word.”
Earlier, the 28-member Florida Legislative Black Caucus voted unanimously to file a complaint against Artiles seeking his removal from the Senate.
“Are words of contrition sufficient to erase the damage that Senator Artiles has caused, or do we finally insist that he bear the consequences?” said Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston, who was part of the conversation Monday night that led to Artiles’ apology. “This incident is not the first, nor do we believe it will be the last from a man who has not yet learned the value of respect and dignity owed to members with whom he serves.”