The president of the Connecticut chapter of the NAACP and a member of the state legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus say Gov. Ned Lamont (D) needs to meet with them as soon as possible to discuss an “insensitive” phrase he used during a recent coronavirus briefing.
On July 9, during his briefing, Lamont discussed the Payroll Protection Program loans, stating, “It’s a little like ’40 acres and a mule.’ It’s really a big giveaway that the federal government has done for good purpose I would say.”
The governor apparently referred to an attempt at reparations to freed slaves during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War, with a vision of “40 acres and a mule” given to the former slaves from the property previously owned by Southern landowners. The plan was never realized, however, after President Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, returned the land to its former owners.
News 8 WTNH reported Lamont’s use of the phrase “flew under the radar until viewers” reported its was “offensive to the Black community.”
State Rep. Bobby Gibson (D), a member of the legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, said the governor may not have been aware he was using an offensive reference.
“Yeah, on the surface it is offensive, but if you really think about the changes this state and country are going through, this is an opportunity,” he said.
Gibson added he would like to speak with Lamont and educate him.
“The governor should take the lead,” he said. “Think about how powerful it would be for the governor to learn something…and to then change the way he thinks.”
Similarly, NAACP President Scott X. Esdaile said he has also called the governor.
“I’m requesting that he and I have a conversation to discuss this matter ASAP,” he noted.
News 8 told Lamont: “We reached out to somebody in the Black and Puerto Rican caucus and they said they thought it was an opportunity to sit down and talk and educate you and others on phrases like that that seem insensitive to those in the Black community.”
“I’m always happy to talk to people, but I was talking about opportunity; that was the message,” Lamont replied.
“Lamont said he will sit down with them, but he did not come out and formally apologize for the comment,” News 8 reported.