Remarks on race cause stir in House
By JOSH O’GORMAN
STAFF WRITER | April 18,2014
MONTPELIER — A Newport City representative denied an accusation of using racist language on the House floor.
During a debate Wednesday on the House floor on a bill regarding education, Republican Duncan Kilmartin of Newport City discussed the comparison of test scores from one state to another when the states have different racial compositions.
“We are an all-white population. Texas scores for all-white population in Texas — not the Hispanics and other minority groups — actually do better than Vermont,” Kilmartin said. “When you parse the statistics, we are not doing as well as we claim because we compare ourselves continually to other states which have large minority populations.”
The statement drew a response from Democratic Rep. Jean O’Sullivan of Burlington, who called Kilmartin’s comments racist.
“I don’t want ever to hear a conversation that sounds like it came out of 1838, not 2014,” O’Sullivan said. “Conflating academic achievement with race is offensive to me and to everybody. I cannot sit in this chamber and listen to that kind of dribble.”
Thursday, Kilmartin addressed his remarks from the previous day.
“In my entire life, I have never been accused of being a racist and I think the accusation that bothers me the most — notwithstanding years of experience as a trial lawyer where passions can run high — I was accused of conflating race with educational achievement, as if that were some cardinal sin, and it was equated to being dribble,” Kilmartin said. “I’m very sorry that I had to do this because to accuse another person or to imply that they’re a racist, based upon a quotation of federal statistics, I think is appalling.”
Republican Rep. Tom Terenzini of Rutland Town addressed House Speaker Shap Smith as Terenzini condemned O’Sullivan’s remarks.
“I’ve heard you talk about civility many times in this chamber and yesterday was just a disgrace,” Terenzini said.
Kilmartin’s remarks drew a motion from the floor that his comments from Thursday be part of the Legislative Journal, a written record of the day-to-day activities of the Legislature. After a 15-minute roll call vote, the House voted to not include Kilmartin’s remarks from Thursday as part of the Legislative Journal by a vote of 79 to 53.
“I respect all those who have engaged in this discussion, but I do not think it is helpful to memorialize their disagreements in our journal,” said Republican Rep. Thomas Koch of Barre Town.
Neither Kilmartin’s nor O’Sullivan’s remarks were part of the Legislative Journal for Wednesday either.