BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD)- Representative Ray Garofalo presented a bill that would limit what he sees as opinions from teachers in the classroom regarding racism and sexism. The representative is now under fire for some comments he made during the bill’s hearing in committee.
As Rep. Garofalo presented his bill to the education committee on Wednesday, conversations around race and what the bill was trying to limit led to a heated debate. During the discussion a comment around slavery went viral.
“If you’re having a discussion on whatever the case may be; on slavery. Then you can talk about everything dealing with slavery the good, the bad, the ugly,” Rep. Garofalo said.
Representative Stephanie Hilferty, acting as Chairman at the time replied “there’s no good to slavery though.” After the audience laughed at the comment Rep. Garofalo said “Then whatever the case may be.”
Rep. Garofalo immediately backtracked that comment stating that is not what he meant. The bill looks to keep teachers and discussions from insinuating that the United States or Louisiana are systemically racist or sexist. When asked in a previous interview, Rep. Garofalo said he does not believe they are.
During the debate Representative Gary Carter asked “Was the state of Louisiana ever fundamentally, institutionally, or systematically racist in your opinion?” to which Rep. Garofalo replied “Again the bill says you can talk about these concepts but you can’t teach it as fact unless it is fact.”
Rep. Garofalo’s bill was created in the wake of his reaction to a discussion at LSU titled “White Rage”. The authors talked about race and religion and how it affects communities of color.
The debate on the one bill lasted nearly four hours pushing other bills aside even with Rep. Garofalo, the chairman of the committee, said he would not call a vote on the bill that day. In the end members of the board went around the chairman to call a vote to involuntarily defer the bill to essentially kill it for the session instead of allowing it to come back later. The vote was 7-7 keeping it alive.
Since the hearing, the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus has called for the removal of Rep. Garofalo as chairman of the education committee. The caucus chairman Representative Ted James stated in a release the bill includes divisive, insensitive, and racist elements.
Governor John Bel Edwards was asked at a press conference Thursday about his stance on the issue.
“I think it is obvious and incontrovertible that he made some very unfortunate statements that have caused a significant number of colleagues to lose confidence in him and it’s my understanding that those colleagues span both sides of the isle,” Gov. Edwards said. “They have had conversations with representative garofalo and with the speakers and obviously it’s the speaker’s decision if he is going to make any changes.”
Speaker Clay Schexnayder said on Thursday he hasn’t made a decision on whether to remove Rep. Garofalo as Chairman. He does have the option to bring his bill back to committee for another hearing but it is not clear when or if that will happen.