Archive for Wednesday, February 16, 2011

O’Brien clarifies, apologizes for “complexion” comments

Kansas Rep. Connie O'Brien speaks at Friday at the first of the Leavenworth County chambers of commerce legislative updates.

Kansas Rep. Connie O'Brien speaks at Friday at the first of the Leavenworth County chambers of commerce legislative updates.

February 16, 2011

Rep. Connie O’Brien has released a statement clarifying and apologizing for comments she made recently about the “complexion” of a college student.

“After contemplating the statements I made in the Federal and State Affairs Committee meeting, I understand how they could have been misconstrued,” O’Brien said in a released statement Wednesday. “I misspoke and apologize to those I offended. I have learned from this situation and will be more careful with my choice of words in the future.

“The student in question did not have a driver’s license, government identification or any other form of documentation. From the situation, it was clear that the student was not a United States citizen. However, I should have been more precise in stating why it was clear that she was not a legal citizen.”

The Tonganoxie Republican came under fire earlier this week for comments she made while testifying to a House committee this past week in support of a bill that would repeal in-state tuition for certain undocumented students.

The Kansas Democratic Party on Monday demanded a Republican legislator apologize for saying she could tell a woman wasn’t from the United States because of her “olive complexion.”

“This kind of blatant racism is unacceptable,” said Kenny Johnston, executive director of the state Democratic Party.

O’Brien told the House Federal and State Affairs Committee about a time last year when she accompanied her son to enroll in college.

A woman near them in line was requesting her scholarship money but when the clerk asked for her photo identification, the woman said she had none, O’Brien said.

The woman then asked for someone else to help her, O’Brien said. O’Brien told the committee that the woman was going to get financial assistance, and her son, who was born and raised in Kansas, wasn’t.

“We didn’t ask the girl what nationality she was. We didn’t think that was proper but we could tell by looking at her that she was not originally from this country,” O’Brien said.

State Rep. Sean Gatewood, D-Topeka, asked O’Brien how she could tell, and O’Brien replied, “She wasn’t black, she wasn’t Asian, and she had the olive complexion.” O’Brien said she had a son-in-law from Afghanistan, who had olive complexion, so the woman could have been from Afghanistan.

Another committee member, state Rep. Mario Goico, R-Wichita, told O’Brien during the committee hearing that the woman O’Brien had been speaking about, if she was an undocumented student, could not have received any federal or state scholarship funds.

The proposal to repeal the 2004 law that allows in-state tuition for undocumented students was approved by the committee and will be debated by the full House this week.


Ronald Grover 7 years, 3 months ago

Rep. Connie O’Brien you have got to be kidding me. This is an apology?

No documentation on their person so YOU ASSUME illegal and let's not forget that she obviously was not your skin tone so she must be illegal.

You didn't ask the person if they were here legally or illegally which really if you aren't an officer of ICE then it isn't really any of your business. Citizen or undocumented we all have a certain right to privacy as it applies to SOMEONE ELSE STANDING IN LINE. Are you this judgemental in line at the grocery store too?

So now you will not call an "olive skinned" individual an illegal but it is OK to make the assumption that if any of us are not carrying our picture identification we should be suspected of being in the US illegally. What an enlightened representative of the people.

Maybe if you want to go around targeting random people as legal or illegal you should resign your position in Topeka and submit your application for employment to ICE.


Ronald Grover 7 years, 3 months ago

Representative O'Brien, how about saying this as an apology. It will more accurately reflect an apology. (what we wish we could hear from a politician, but probably never will)

"To the residents of the Great State of Kansas and the constiuents that elected me to this office. I want to apologize for the racist statement I made in a House and Federal Affairs Committee meeting. I have come to realize that the statement was racist and I now recognize myself as a bigot. In light of this I am now working to understand the contribution throughout history that peoples of all nationalities have made in building the Great State of Kansas. I hope with this statement you can forgive my error in judgement."


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