Rep. Ryan Winkler says he thought "Uncle Tom" meant "turncoat"
Winkler: "My words were inappropriate and I apologize."
DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler, D-Golden Valley, is getting absolutely destroyed on Twitter this afternoon for calling black Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas an "Uncle Thomas."
THE BACKSTORY: DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler calls Clarence Thomas "Uncle Thomas"
After we blogged about Winkler's gaffe earlier today, the Harvard grad (he was a history major) tweeted at yours truly and explained he "did not understand 'Uncle Tom' as a racist term, and there seems to be some debate about it. I do apologize for it, however." Later this afternoon, Winkler explained himself in more detail in interviews and in a statement released through the Minnesota House Communications Department.
"I intended to point out the fact that Justice Thomas had turned his back on African-American civil rights. I did not intend it as a racially derogatory term and I probably reacted too hastily in using a word that is very loaded," Winkler told the Star Tribune.
He then explained that before this afternoon, he thought "Uncle Tom" simply meant "turncoat." (Merriam-Webster defines the term as "a black who is overeager to win the approval of whites [as by obsequious behavior or uncritical acceptance of white values and goals].")
"I guess my judgment is way off," Winkler said, adding that he wasn't sure whether the firestorm would have a long-term impact on his political career.
In his statement, Winkler apologized again. Here's the full text:
"I was very disappointed today in the Supreme Court decision to roll back key provisions of the Voting Rights Act because I believe the Voting Rights Act is one of the most important steps our nation has taken to eliminate racial discrimination.
In expressing that disappointment on twitter, I hastily used a loaded term that is offensive to many. My words were inappropriate and I apologize. The implications of this Supreme Court decision are serious for our state and country and I regret that my comments have distracted from the serious dialogue we must have going forward to ensure racial discrimination has no place in our election system."
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