NAACP, SCLC Speak Out About Sen. Ruff's "Tar Baby" Comment - WSET.com - ABC13

NAACP, SCLC Speak Out About Sen. Ruff's "Tar Baby" Comment

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Danville, VA - A discussion about Medicaid expansion quickly turned into a conversation about racially insensitive language Tuesday when Senator Frank Ruff described the Affordable Health Care Act as a "tar baby".

"There is no place in the debate that we're having on these serious issues to be using that kind of language, " said Gov. Terry McAulife in an interview with CNN.

The Governor was not the only one bothered by the statement. Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders walked out of that meeting shortly after Ruff made the comment.

"I had no intent of offending anybody. I would have no reason why I would even want to bring up a racial issue, " Ruff said.

The Senator has apologized to Mayor Saunders, but the state NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference say apologizing to the Mayor alone is not enough.

"I think the apology needs to go beyond that. I think it should go to the citizens whom he is to represent, " said a state NAACP representative.

Ruff claims he had no idea the term had racial connotations.  Some folks in the community say that's hard to believe, but Reverend Avon Keen wants this to be a teaching moment.

"This has been reoccurring. This is not the first time it has happened, " Keen said.

Keen wants to help local groups like Danville United organize workshops on racially offensive language to cut down on the casual use of terms that do harm.

"If you say 'I didn't know it was offensive', then you need a workshop. You need to be educated, " Keen said.

Right now, the workshops are just an idea and Keen hopes to get the ball rolling at the local level soon. Then, he wants state legislators to put in place similar workshops for elected officials.

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