As Alabama lawmakers grapple with a redistricting effort some claim will minimize the voting clout of black constituents, one white Republican has been forced to apologize for forwarding an email seen as racist and offensive by many of his colleagues.
On Wednesday, State Rep. Lynn Greer forwarded an email titled “POLITICS psychology” to members of the Alabama House and their staff. The message passed along by Rep. Greer reportedly described a situation in which research monkeys would stop their attempts to reach a banana suspended over their cage after being sprayed with water, with subsequent monkeys eventually resigning themselves to their banana-less fate. According to the Associated Press, the email concluded with: “This is how today’s House and Senate operates, and this is why from time to time, ALL of the monkeys need to be REPLACED AT THE SAME TIME!”
As Greer’s email was circulating through Alabama’s legislature, CBS News reported, members of the Black Caucus were trying to block efforts to create new voting districts—ones, they claim, which would adversely affect the black community.
During a contentious House session on Thursday, one black lawmaker reportedly took Rep. Greer to task for the email.
“I’m not a monkey. My mother wasn’t a monkey, and neither was my father,” Rep. John Rogers (D-AL52) shouted at Greer.
“You are a damn monkey,” he added.
Rep. John Knight (D-AL77), who serves as chairman of the Black Caucus, also spoke out against Greer message, calling it “insulting” and “unacceptable,” during a press conference.
“There is no place in the State House for this type of emails to be circulated,” Knight later said. “We resent it and we will not tolerate it. Our voices have not been heard, and we have been subjected to the most racial insult that I’ve ever seen.”
During Thursday’s legislative session, Greer apologized to his fellow lawmakers, saying, “I stand before you tonight as humble as I can, apologizing for offending you. I wouldn’t have done it for anything in the world,” the AP reported. He also released a short statement, explaining that the email was based on “actual psychological experiments that were conducted by in the 1920s.”
“A constituent sent me the email, which has been distributed nationally and compares the experiment to today’s political climate in the U.S. Congress, not the Alabama Legislature,” Greer continued. “The last paragraph of the email implies that ALL incumbents, whether Republican or Democrat, should be replaced. Without comment or edits on my part, I forwarded the email to various members who might have an interest, and, as a result, it has been taken out of context and given a meaning that was not intended for pure political purposes. For that, I apologize to my colleagues.”