A Republican state senator in Colorado is coming under fire after implying at a hearing on Wednesday that African-Americans and Hispanics faced increased poverty because they ate more fried chicken.
Sen. Vicki Marble (R) offered the remarks while the legislature's Economic Opportunity Poverty Reduction Task Force was examining statistics behind racial disparity in the poverty rate, according to KDVR.
"When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race: sickle-cell anemia is something that comes up, diabetes is something that’s prevalent in the genetic makeup and you just can’t help it," Marble said. "Although I’ve got to say, I’ve never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down south and you — I love it."
"The Mexican diet, in Mexico, with all of the fresh vegetables, and you go down there and they're much thinner than they are up here, they've changed their diet," she continued.
Marble went on to mention "alcoholics, rageoholics, drug addicts, you have people, they say, who are addicted to porn."
Democratic state Sen. Evie Hudak told KDVR that “there was an audible gasp in the room."
And state Rep. Rhonda Fields (D) responded moments later: "The title for this committee is the Economic Opportunity Poverty Reduction Task Force; and one of the things I will not tolerate is racist and insensitive comments about African Americans, the color of their skin."
"You mentioned what we eat — I was highly offended by your remarks," Fields told Marble. "I will not engage in a dialogue where I’m in the company where you are using the stereotype references about African Americans and chicken and food and all kinds of things. I will just not tolerate that."
"This is not what this committee is all about. So I will ask that you suspend your perceptions and judgments about African Americans, about poverty — what we’re trying to do is come up with solutions and it’s not about chicken," she added. "It’s not about eating chicken."
State Sen. John Kefalas (D), who chairs the committee, immediately called a recess "so we can all take a deep breath."
After the hearing Wednesday night, Marble issued a statement to insist that her comments "were not meant to be disparaging to any community. I am saddened they were taken in that regard."
NAACP Colorado Political Action Director James Johnson told KMGH that Marble was guilty of reinforcing racial stereo types at the very least.
"To bring it down to fried chicken and BBQ is insulting not just to a race of people but to all the people of Colorado," Johnson explained. "This task force is doing good work to address poverty, but these comments are a distraction."