Wisconsin Public Radio

Legislators Clash on Black History Month

Republicans remove Colin Kaepernick from resolution, Rep. Bowen cries foul.

By , Wisconsin Public Radio - Feb 13th, 2019 10:27 am
Get a daily rundown of the top stories on Urban Milwaukee
Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Dave Reid.

Wisconsin State Capitol. Photo by Dave Reid.

Wisconsin lawmakers clashed Tuesday over a Black History Month resolution that named controversial athlete Colin Kaepernick, a former NFL quarterback.

The resolution text, drafted by the state Legislative Black Caucus, said it aims to “recognize the significant contributions people of African descent have made, to the foundation, growth and development of our country and state.”

After more than an hour of debate, Kaepernick was removed from the resolution, which includes figures like Lucien H. Palmer, the first African-American to be elected to the Wisconsin Assembly, Violette Neatley Anderson, the first African-American woman to practice law before the United States Supreme Court and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

A member of the Legislative Black Caucus said having to alter the resolution in order for it to pass was disappointing.

“You literally are putting me on the decision-making table to question if I want to be fully black today, or like half black today,” said Rep. David Bowen, D-Milwaukee. “At the end of the day, I can’t change the fact that I’m black, but I would love to make sure I have colleagues that can continue to trust and work with me as I unapologetically highlight the folks in this (resolution) that I know have made a positive impact on the community I come from.”

According to Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, some Republican members of the state Assembly were concerned about Kaepernick’s inclusion in the resolution.

Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has been a lightning rod for political debate since he began kneeling during the national anthem preceding games in 2016 as a way to protest racial inequality in the United States. He has since left professional football, but remains a polarizing figure.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said it was unfortunate the caucus chose to include such a divisive figure in their resolution.

“We’re in a new era, we’re trying to figure out ways to work together,” Vos said. “We would hope they would have more consideration to say, let’s look at finding ways to work together, rather than always looking at ways to drive us apart.”

Rather than vote on the resolution drafted by the caucus, Republican lawmakers at first attempted to bring up their own Black History Month resolution. That resolution omitted Kaepernick and Milwaukee Rev. Greg Lewis, and added Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Vel Phillipsthe first African-American to be elected to statewide office in Wisconsin.

Chairman of the state Legislative Black Caucus, Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee, called GOP lawmakers’ refusal to take up the caucus’ resolution as drafted a “slap in the face.”

“The biggest issue that we have as a black caucus is people choosing to pick our leaders for us,” Crowley said.

The state Senate is expected to take up a Black History Month resolution Wednesday.

The office of Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, did not immediately return a request for comment about which resolution to the Senate would vote on.

Listen to the WPR report here.

Wisconsin Lawmakers Spar Over Including Colin Kaepernick In Black History Month Resolution was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.

More about the Capitol's Colin Kaepernick Controversy

3 thoughts on “Legislators Clash on Black History Month”

  1. blurondo says:

    “We’re in a new era, we’re trying to figure out ways to work together,” Vos said. “We would hope they would have more consideration to say, let’s look at finding ways to work together, rather than always looking at ways to drive us apart.”

    This is what Vos should have said: “We’re in a new era, we’re trying to figure out ways to work together. We would hope WE would have more consideration to say, let’s look at finding ways to work together, rather than always looking at ways to drive us apart.”

    It’s always someone else’s fault, isn’t it Mr. Speaker.

  2. mkwagner says:

    The onus has always been on people of color to make whites feel OK. The fact is we live in a country that for almost 400 years oppressed all peoples of color. It’s time for YOU to start offering the hand of inclusion. This notion that including someone who makes YOU feel uncomfortable is not an act of “working together.” Time for you to own up to your racism and commit to being a better leader.

  3. Duane says:

    Is February “Black History Month” or “White People Be Trippin” month? Maybe both?

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us