|Sen. Mark Kirk|
The comment, with its racial undertones, came during a sit-down interview with the Peoria Journal Star and followed a question about how to encourage business development in Kirk's home state.Later a response from Sen. Kirk's office was added to this article:
“I want to make sure we have elected people constantly looking at helping the African-American community,” Kirk said. “With this state and all of its resources, we could sponsor a whole new class of potential innovators like George Washington Carver and eventually have a class of African-American billionaires. That would really adjust income differentials and make the diversity and outcome of the state much better so that the black community is not the one we drive faster through." [emphasis added.]
The notion that people hit the gas when driving through black neighborhoods is a common racial stereotype about urbanization and criminal behavior among African-Americans. The fact that an elected senator from a state with a sizable black population would make such a comment was deemed unfortunate by at least one African-American leader in Illinois.
"I think what he was trying to say is, he was trying to relate that to crime. But boy, it was a poor choice of phraseology," said George Mitchell, president of the NAACP's Illinois State Conference.
Eleni Demertzis, Kirk's press secretary, emailed the following response to questions about the senator's comments from last week: "Anyone watching network news in Chicago is aware of the frequent killings and violence that affects various communities in Illinois. Senator Kirk is active in fighting gang violence, keeping assault weapons off the streets, and working within the African-American community to find aspiring entrepreneurs. No one can question Senator Kirk’s commitment to the African-American community."What are your thoughts?