This is post is long, long overdue, but I was having a minor crisis of conscience about posting about Jim Giles, the now-disgraced Saline County Commissioner.
During a sparsely-attended commission meeting in April, Giles suggested that when hiring an architect for a project, they should find a candidate who wouldn't "nigger rig" it.
I get it. Truly, I do. Language changes, and sometimes a vernacular is behind the curve in the change. (A recent example: It used to be very commonplace to refer to someone doing something silly or stupid as "retarded." And I used the word all of the time until I was in college. There, a dear friend, told me about his developmentally-disabled sister, who had died when he was in middle school. He told me the word hurt his feelings. I no longer use the word, but it took me awhile to fully expunge it from my everyday.)
So, maybe Giles used that term frequently in his youth and hasn't been able to fully kick the (bad) habit. But, what happens next shows that clearly, clearly, Giles believes that black people are synonymous with poor construction, because when someone in the room asked Giles what he'd just said, he explained: "Afro-Americanized." So, it wasn't just the use of a badly-timed phrase. Giles still uses the n-word to mean "black person."
Biles (Freudian slip, excuse me) Giles is an embarrassment to his community. I can't help but think if there are black architects or construction workers or government contractors that they don't stand a chance of being hired to perform county services by Commissioner Giles.
So Giles is a bad, racist person. Obviously. But the story gets worse. Much worse.
Also seated in the room at that fateful April commission meeting was none other than Randy Duncan -- the Chair of the GOP First District Republican Party. Duncan, also a Saline County Commissioner, said nothing.
As faithful readers know, I am a big advocate of the Republican Party policing itself. And here was a very public instance in which it needed to happen.
Instead, Duncan did the Democrat dance and decided to put his friendship above principle.
Giles eventually apologized, explaining so eloquently that he has a black friend and that he's built houses for "colored people" through Habitat for Humanity.
Duncan accepted his apology and stood behind Giles. It kind of reminded me of the time that former President Clinton got all of his friends to lie for him about Monica Lewinsky.
Duncan didn't lie, but he also didn't stand on principle. He stood on, I don't know, something tacky and gross.
Very, very few Republican voices said anything untoward about Giles' wording from straight out of the 1940s. Seriously, I can't even think about the guy without envisioning lynchings and white sheets. That's how awful and disgusting and tragic I think his comments were.
Rep. JR Claeys, R-Salina, was fairly vocal in his belief that Giles should resign. But as far as I know, he was standing alone while the Salina and First District Republicans circled the wagons for Giles.
Every single person who publicly or privately encouraged Giles to continue in office needs to do some soul-searching right about now.
I have no doubt that there are conservatives in Salina who could have stepped into Giles' role. No single person is bigger than their office.
Giles should've done the right thing and resigned and Duncan and the others circling the wagons, should've been helping to show him the door.