February 16, 2011 12:01 pm ET - by Kate Conway
Gov. Rick Scott's (R-FL) attempt to relate to black lawmakers at a Governor's Mansion lunch fell flat when he suggested that they all grew up in public housing and had parents with "a sixth-grade education."
Gov. Rick Scott welcomed black legislators to lunch Tuesday at the Governor's Mansion, but his choice of words left some feeling more alienated than ever.
In discussing his own humble origins, Scott implied that all black lawmakers grew up poor.
"I grew up probably in the same situation as you guys," Scott said to the group of 20 Democrats. "I started school in public housing. My dad had a sixth-grade education."
Scott's offensive assumptions about the backgrounds of members of the black caucus weren't the only source of tension at the lunch. A number of Scott's supposedly "pro-business" policies threaten black and minority interests in Florida:
For an hour over lunch, the lawmakers voiced opposition to Scott's plans to end state support for two historically black colleges, to abolish a state office that helps minority-owned businesses get state contracts and to lower unemployment benefits and health care funding for the poor. They also expressed concern that Scott so far has not appointed any black agency heads and asked him to stop using the term "Obamacare."
Scott's awkward overtures to his state's black legislators and the damaging policies they're upset about follow a disastrous first month as governor. Now in his second month in office, Scott's latest blunder is just a further indication that he hasn't figured out how to govern Florida's diverse population with grace.
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