Supporters and opponents of an education funding proposal are condemning the comments made by a state representative that injected race into the debate over Initiative 42.
Opponents of Initiative 42 have been critical of the proposal arguing that it would shift funding decisions away from elected lawmakers and on to judges, or more specifically, a chancery court in Hinds County.
But over the weekend, Republican Representative Lester "Bubba" Carpenter of Burnsville made the criticism about race when he argued that a "black judge" would decide how to spend money on public schools. The remark, made before a meeting of the Tishomingo County Republican Party was caught on video by WRMG.
"If 42 passes in its form a judge in Hinds County, Miss., (predominately black, it's going to be a black judge) [is] going to tell us where the state education money goes."
Carpenter has since issued a statement apologizing for the remarks calling them inappropriate and out of line, but not before raising the ire of many members of the legislative black caucus.
Democratic Rep. Earle Banks of Hinds County says Carpenter's comments are part of a deeper problem in Mississippi politics.
"Those are code words from what we hear and understand to say 'we don't need this because its black folk, black folk, black folk," says Banks. "We have too much racial polarization already in Missississippi. It is time for us to understand we are a people on the same ship. We will rise and float together, swim together, sink together. It is time for us tom come together."
In a statement Speaker of the House Philip Gunn says, "the comments of Rep. Carpenter were completely inappropriate [and] his comments do not reflect the attitude of the Republican Party or the leadership of the House."