The University of Connecticut College Democrats released a statement on Oct. 7 condemning Connecticut State Senator Gayle Slossberg’s use of the n-word in a speech she gave at the group’s meeting on Oct. 3.
“We, as a club, believe Senator Slossberg’s use of this word is reprehensible and unjustifiable,” the statement said. “There is no excuse for her use of this kind of language, regardless of context.”
Slossberg was describing her work on her local PTA in which she worked to remove books that included the derogatory racial term from grade school libraries, the statement said.
"In describing that the books were so inappropriate for young children, I referenced the actual word aloud as it appeared in the text of a children’s book. My intention was to convey that this word has no place in our society, especially in teaching our children,” Slossberg said in a statement Thursday. “I responded immediately for the offense caused by my utterance and sent a formal apology to the entire club.”
The statement said the use of the word spurred a “visceral reaction” from some members.
“That word is so poisonous that it can really hurt people,” Stevie Della-Giustina, president of the UConn College Democrats, said. “This was especially evident with the pain some members of our club felt.”
Della-Giustina said he read Slossberg’s statement but still does not condone her use of the word.
“Words are very powerful things and any racial pejorative is poisonous,” Della-Giustina said. “The use of that word cannot be condoned.”
The statement said that, while the group encourages open political dialogue, they cannot excuse the use of the word even within that context.
“The use of this word transcends political opinion and partisanship, and we refute the use of this word and any others that target the identities of groups affected by racism,” the statement said.
Della-Giustina said the group felt it was necessary to issue a statement that accurately reflected the sentiments of the group as a whole.
“We decided that as a collective we needed to issue this statement as a cohesive group, (to show) that we stood indivisible,” Della-Giustina said. “We took our time to ensure that all voices were heard and expressed in our statement, and that everyone felt comfortable about the statement.”
The UConn College Democrats held an emergency meeting Oct. 4 for members to discuss their reaction to the event.
“I became conscious that the members of our club, especially the people of color, needed to express how they felt about what had transpired,” Della-Giustina said.
Della-Giustina said the group will also discuss the issue at the next meeting on Tuesday in Student Union room 321.
“(I want to) ensure every member of the UConn community feels that they can come to a UConn College Democrats meeting,” Della-Giustina said.
Anna Zarra Aldrich is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @ZarraAnna.