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Lawmaker apologizes for 'colored babies' remark

, R-Marlow [Provided photo]
Boles , R-Marlow [Provided photo]

An Oklahoma state lawmaker apologized Tuesday for using the term "colored babies" in a heated debate about an anti-abortion bill.

Rep. Brad Boles, R-Marlow, called the remark a "slip of the tongue," and apologized within hours of making the comment on the House floor.

"It was a slip of tongue that was not at all what I intended to say, nor who I am in my heart," Boles said in a statement. "I apologized immediately in a candid, productive conversation with several colleagues personally as well as made a public apology on the House floor."

Boles made the comment while debating in favor of a "fetal heartbeat" bill that would outlaw abortions once "cardiac activity" is detected in a fetus, which can occur as early as six weeks into a woman's pregnancy.

"In 2017, 862,000 babies were aborted. 28% of those babies were colored babies. 240,000 Black kids, 215,000 Hispanic kids. These kids mattered and I'm here to advocate for them, as well," Boles said, without citing his statistics.

Boles' remark almost immediately drew criticism from Democrat Mauree Turner, who is Black.

In a statement, the ACLU of Oklahoma said anti-abortion efforts are rooted in the exploitation of Black people, and criticized Boles' rhetoric.

“It is disgraceful that in 2021 we still have elected officials like Rep. Boles use racist rhetoric such as ‘colored’ on the floor of the People's house," said ACLU Executive Director Tamya Cox-Touré. "Rep. Boles and his colleagues should not only commit to engaging in conversations about race equity work with the experts in our state, but also actively check their colleagues on problematic behavior.”

The Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations urged the Legislature to adopt training on implicit bias, diversity, inclusion and white privilege to prevent future racist rhetoric.

Sweeping "slips of the tongue" under the rug allows racism and inequities to persist, said Lani Habrock, government affairs director of CAIR-OK.

“Although representative Boles has apologized, stating this was a ‘slip of the tongue,’ such ‘slips’ are indicative of the racism and bias that continue to be a problem at the state legislature year after year,” she said in a statement.

Later on Tuesday, Boles apologized on the House floor, saying he was "truly sorry."

"Earlier today, I made a mistake on the House floor, he said. "We were debating a passionate bill, and through the slip of the tongue, I said a word that was not what it was intended to be, and so I apologize for any of the members of the House or that listened online that I may have offended."

The term "colored" is offensive because of its use during the Jim Crow era to relegate Black Americans to "colored-only" water fountains, restrooms and other segregated common areas.

Boles was first elected to the Oklahoma House in 2018.