Colorado state Sen. Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins) caused a stir on Wednesday when she said high poverty rates among blacks and Hispanics are connected to diets that include fried chicken and barbecue.
“When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race,” Marble said during a meeting of the legislature’s Economic Opportunity Poverty Reduction Task Force. “Sickle-cell anemia is something that comes up. Diabetes is something that’s prevalent in the genetic makeup, and you just can’t help it. Although I’ve got to say, I’ve never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down South and you, I mean, I love it. Everybody loves it.”
Marble continued, “The Mexican diet in Mexico with all of the fresh vegetables, and you go down there and they are much thinner than they are up here. They’ve changed their diet. I’ve read studies on that.”
Marble’s remarks drew immediate rebuke from her colleagues, who chided the state senator for reinforcing stereotypes about blacks and Hispanics. State Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) called the comments “racist” and “insensitive.”
“I was highly offended by your remarks,” Fields said to Marble during the committee hearing, according to Denver’s ABC 7 News. “I will not engage in a dialogue where I am in the company you are using these stereotype references about African Americans and chicken and food. I will just not tolerate that. This is not what this committee is all about. What we are trying to do is come up with meaningful solutions. It’s not about chicken.”
On Wednesday evening, Marbles released a statement in response to the backlash.
“My comments were not meant to be disparaging to any community,” she said. “I am saddened they were taken in that regard. I take my responsibility seriously and I hope our work on this committee will offer real solutions to the health and financial challenges of our vulnerable populations.”