Let’s examine Frank Artiles’ explanation for the scandal that led to his resignation from the state Senate on Friday. After a few drinks at the members-only Governor’s Club in Tallahassee, he had been transported back to his youthful days on the mean streets of Hialeah.
Sure enough, out slipped some racist slurs and sexist insults. Same way we native West Virginians, after a few pints of moonshine, disparage one another as “hillbillies” or “gators.” Can’t hardly help ourselves.
“I grew up in a diverse community. We share each other’s customs, cultures and vernacular,” Artiles explained to his unconvinced fellow senators. Artiles had demonstrated this extraordinary cultural versatility Monday night by calling a fellow senator, Audrey Gibson, a black woman of a certain age, a “girl” and a “b---h.”
Sen. Gibson, who is from Jacksonville, failed to grasp that Artiles was only channeling Luther Campbell. Nor, apparently, did anyone else.
The once powerful Miami-Dade senator had descended even deeper into the political abyss when he characterized some fellow Republicans with whom he had policy disagreements as “n---as.” He seemed to assume that using this bit of racial vernacular was OK because he was talking to two black senators (Gibson and Perry Thurston of Fort Lauderdale), just a street-savvy dude talking straight to a bro and sister about some funky white guys.
Because “n---a” is practically a term of endearment in a “diverse community” like his hometown of Hialeah. Never mind that Hialeah is less diverse than Trump’s Cabinet, blacks making up less than 3 percent of the population.
If I had hit somebody, they’d be in the hospital. Sen. Frank Artiles
The outrage, first with his original remarks, then with his bone-headed defense, was too much, even for a bully boy. After five days of bipartisan uproar, the formerly defiant Artiles slouched home, a disgraced former senator. Yet I can almost buy Artiles’ explanation. (OK. OK. A few pints of high-grade moonshine would make his excuses go down easier.) After all, he has worked hard to cultivate his gangsta image. In 2015, after several witnesses accused him of pounding on a 21-year-old college student at yet another Tallahassee bar, he denied the charge with a special bit of bravado: “If I had hit somebody, they’d be in the hospital.”