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AZ's only black legislators were reprimanded for calling out a colleague's use of the n-word

Posted April 27, 2018 12:28 p.m. EDT

— Arizona's only two black state legislators were publicly rebuked after they expressed concern over a colleague using the N-word in a published article.

Republican state Rep. Maria Syms wrote and published the article April 25 on The piece examined what Syms says is the liberal partisanship underlying the recent teacher protests and walkouts in the state. In the piece, she used an uncensored lyric from a song by rapper Kendrick Lamar to criticize #RedForEd leader Noah Karvelis, who she claims grooms young children with liberal ideas.

"He prides himself on teaching the hip hop music of Kendrick Lamar (whose lyrics include 'We hate Popo [police], wanna kill us dead in the street for sure...') to 10-year-olds, indoctrinating them in 'social movements and societal change' and 'socioeconomic and racial privilege,'" Syms wrote. The quote originally contained the n-word. It has since been removed from the piece, and an editor's note added to explain the revision.

Later that day, Democratic state Rep. Reginald Bolding delivered a floor speech criticizing the article. He said Syms, who is white, should not be using the word in public discourse even if it is part of a lyric or quote.

"I want to make it crystal clear today that it is not acceptable to use these words in print or aloud about African-Americans, especially not by elected officials. As representatives of this great state of Arizona, we are held to a higher standard," he said.

Bolding was joined on the floor by fellow Democratic Rep. Geraldine Peten, who stood in agreement with Bolden's statements and began to add a few words of her own.

However, their comments were interrupted by a fellow legislator, who said Bolden and Peten were "out of order" and violating House Rule 19. The legislator claimed Syms was "impugned" because she was "accused of using a racial slur."

In response, House Speaker J.D. Mesnard, a Republican, chastised Bolding.

"I don't know why it's so hard to follow the rules," Mesnard said. "It doesn't matter whether you are white or black or brown on whatever the color the color of your skin is, you follow the House rules."

The Republican representatives then voted to formally rebuke the pair.

The proceedings were recorded as part of Wednesday's House Session, and include Bolding and Peten's comments.

Bolding called the episode an abuse of power.

"We saw power & privledge abused in the #AZLeg," he wrote on Twitter. "A Republican member used the N-word in an article quoting rap artist [Kenrick Lamar] which she argued gave her a license to use the word. Let me be clear, it doesn't!

CNN has reached out to Mesnard and Bolding for comment.