A Milwaukee state senator under fire using the N-word during an argument with a Wells Fargo bank teller last month is defending herself, saying she felt it was okay to use the word because both she and the teller are Black.
During the April 6 incident, Milwaukee Sen. Lena Taylor (D) reportedly called the teller a “good house n—-a” after he refused to verify if enough funds existed to cover a $825 rent check Taylor received from a new tenant, the Associated Press reported. A police report claimed Taylor became belligerent and was shouting at bank employees, demanding to speak with a manager.
The responding officer said that at one point, he had to step between the senator and the teller out of fear that Taylor might strike him.
“I know cultural competency is not a strong point of MPD,” Taylor said of the officer, who is white.
She was ultimately cited for disorderly conduct.
“He was going along to get along even though it wasn’t the right thing,” Taylor said of the teller during a lengthy interview on radio station WNOV-AM (860). The senator explained she grew frustrated because she felt the employee was yielding to his boss and was not doing enough to help her.
“I said, ‘You did a really good job today of acting like a good house (racial slur),’ ” Taylor told on-air host Sherwin Hughes.
Taylor insisted she used a different phrase more similar to “Negro” during the heated exchange and denied behaving aggressively. She told Hughes she believed she could speak to the teller the way she did because they’re both African-American and because conversational norms in Black culture allow that.
“I do regret that we’re in this situation and that I could have used — that I did not use a different choice of words,” Taylor said. “… But can I say something? In our music, in our language, in our community, in our culture, there are conversations that are had in the black community or among black people that are different than conversations (elsewhere).”
The senator, whose alleged antics have resulted in her removal from a key legislative committee, said it bothered her that some folks considered her words a racial slur, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
Her explanation did little to quell the criticism, however. During the interview, a WNOV caller told Taylor her comment was offensive whether she used the n-word or not because she preceded it with the word “house.” The listener then asked Taylor if she felt what she said was offensive, to which Taylor replied she didn’t know how the teller felt.
“I’m sorry if he felt uncomfortable,” the senator responded. “I felt uncomfortable, too.”
Taylor has pleaded not guilty to the disorderly conduct citation and is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 1.