A white Alabama legislator who stirred outrage after sending an email that black lawmakers on Wednesday condemned as racist has apologized.
Republican Rep. Lynn Greer, of Rogersville, forwarded a constituent email to dozens of legislators and lobbyists that described an experiment in which caged monkeys will eventually stop reaching for a dangling banana as they slowly accept the status quo because their predecessors were punished.
The email was sent as black lawmakers used procedural tactics in the House and Senate to oppose proposed new legislative districts they said minimized black voters' influence.
Greer apologized and said the email was meant to be a joke about the need to replace incumbents. However, black lawmakers said its intent was clearly racial. The bubbling tensions threatened to derail the final days of the legislative session.
"We have been subjected to the most racial insult that I've ever seen," House Black Caucus Chairman John Knight said of Greer's email. "There is no place in the statehouse. It is insulting and it is unacceptable."
Greer issued a statement apologizing for the email and met with the black lawmakers to apologize in person. He said he didn't see the email as racist.
"Bottom of my heart I didn't mean anything bad," Greer told The Associated Press. Greer said he now understood, with the backdrop of the race-tinged redistricting fight, how it was perceived. "If I thought about all that. I guarantee you I wouldn't have done that."
The email titled "POLITICS Psychology" describes how monkeys are sprayed with water for reaching for a banana. Some black lawmakers on Wednesday night said the imagery drew comparisons to how civil rights protesters in Birmingham were sprayed with fire hoses.
"My father was one of five boys and those five boys were some of the ones who got sprayed in Birmingham. Your email brought back a lot of emotions for the people who fought for the rights of all people," Rep. Rolanda Hollis, D-Birmingham, told Greer during debate on an unrelated bill.