It was a mess on the floor of the Colorado House legislature after a Republican Representative used a racial slur to refer to a fellow member of the state legislature during a meeting.
Representative Richard Holtorf openly referred to a fellow colleague as "Buckwheat," causing a ruckus and necessitating the House assembly to go into a temporary recess on Wednesday afternoon.
You can see the moment here:
Colorado State Rep Richard Holtorf (R-Akron) referred to a colleague as “Buckwheat,” leading to a heated exchange a… https://t.co/tEKTJytPyL— Kyle Clark (@Kyle Clark) 1620235282.0
"I'm getting there. Don't worry, Buckwheat. I'm getting there."
He quickly added:
"That's an endearing term, by the way."
It’s not clear from the House video feed who Holtorf called “Buckwheat.” He was immediately challenged by Rep Tom S… https://t.co/3592Rz7V3s— Kyle Clark (@Kyle Clark) 1620235469.0
Rep Holtorf recently downplayed concerns by Black colleagues about racism at the Capitol, telling the @denverpost t… https://t.co/Qqng4ZHMl4— Kyle Clark (@Kyle Clark) 1620235767.0
Rep Holtorf spoke following the recess, first admonishing his colleagues about decorum before acknowledging his “Bu… https://t.co/VCevPfJPeH— Kyle Clark (@Kyle Clark) 1620236639.0
“I apologize if I offended anyone in any way. It is not my intent,” Holtorf said. “If anyone would like to talk wit… https://t.co/w3JAZqgfPY— Kyle Clark (@Kyle Clark) 1620236692.0
Democratic Representative Tom Sullivan—who Holtorf previously told to "get over" the murder of his son at the hands of a mass shooter in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting—immediately challenged Holtorf over the slur.
Several people jumped in to keep the situation calm—including Democratic Representative Leslie Herod—before the audio was cut.
Herod and Sullivan shared their thoughts on social media.
Words matter. (FULL STOP) We MUST NOT accept the use of racist language. As white allies, we need to confront raci… https://t.co/K8TrdX3vlV— Representative Tom Sullivan (@Representative Tom Sullivan) 1620255356.0
Others also were upset by Holtorf's behavior.
@KyleClark When I heard him say Buckwheat, my heart just jumped a little in my chest. Is this really who we are now?— Sue Mendenhall (@Sue Mendenhall) 1620241513.0
@KyleClark Is Akron sending their best?— Marshall (@Marshall) 1620237438.0
@KyleClark In case you want to let him know how you feel, office number is 303-866-2398, firstname.lastname@example.org— •°☆°•☆•° (@•°☆°•☆•°) 1620236050.0
@KyleClark Dude knows he crossed the line by immediately trying to qualify it as a term of endearment.— Glenn Chavez (@Glenn Chavez) 1620235819.0
@KyleClark @Tim_Tweeted Good god— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@Rex Chapman🏇🏼) 1620314048.0
After the recess Wednesday, Holtorf again took the podium. He first admonished everybody else on the floor of the legislature before taking any responsibility for his own actions.
"I think we all need to consider what we do here and how we talk to each other."
"We all have to do better. I will start with me."
"I apologize if I offended anyone in any way. It is not my intent..."
"If anyone would like to talk with me afterwards, I'd be more than happy to visit with them."
@KyleClark I hope there are some republicans that are equally astonished that this came out of his mouth! Where are they?— Carol Reinhart (@Carol Reinhart) 1620248878.0
@NeedBirds @KyleClark The difference is that "dirtbag" is an accurate reflection of his actions, while calling his… https://t.co/EiImFq34Qv— Kira Martin (@Kira Martin) 1620245595.0
@KyleClark *insults someone* "WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME?!" The fact that he had to follow up that taunt with "that… https://t.co/GZ8CerAIja— フィリピン人アメリカ人 オタク 🇵🇭🤓🍎🤙🏾 (@フィリピン人アメリカ人 オタク 🇵🇭🤓🍎🤙🏾) 1620315786.0
@KyleClark Dear Republican Dick (endearing term) Holtorf, Buckwheat is NOT an endearing term. You Knew That. Do Be… https://t.co/reY80fo43g— KP 🇺🇸🙌🏿💙🙌🏻🇺🇸 (@KP 🇺🇸🙌🏿💙🙌🏻🇺🇸) 1620243420.0
Democratic House Speaker Alec Garnett addressed the chamber Thursday after speaking with Holtorf and members offended by his use of the slur. Holtorf was reportedly reprimanded, but any consequences of his behavior were not made public.
Garnett told Holtorf from the podium Thursday:
"I'm thankful you agree to do your part to reset the decorum of this session.... discriminatory remarks, whether intentionally launched or carelessly said, have absolutely no place in this House."
"Yesterday, the decorum of this institution was grossly breached. I'm sorry to say this is not the first time this session, but I'm speaking today to make sure it is the last."
"...and I heard last night how this one word took a member of this body back to a place that they thought they had outlived... the word took them back to a place that they hoped would never reappear, to feelings of a darker time."
"Buckwheat" as a slur originates from the name of the Black child in the Our Gang serials of the 1930s. The character was explicitly created in the "pickaninny" stereotype—an offensive portrayal of Black children across mainstream media, particularly in the early 20th century.
A "term of endearment" would be a hard bridge to sell.