PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A lawmaker is denying her involvement in a war of words at the Rhode Island State House last week.
Representative Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, D-Providence, posted an open letter on Facebook Sunday addressing an incident that happened on the House floor Thursday night.
The post read in part, “For anyone to think or even imagine that I would use the ‘N word’ on the floor of the House of Representatives is reprehensible, repulsive, disgusting and extremely harmful to my name, my family’s name and to my character.”
Ranglin-Vassell went on to say, “I spend countless hours during my day begging and pleading with young people not to use the ‘N word.’ Any claim that those words came from my mouth is patently false. And, to even suggest that those words emitted from my mouth is meant to assassinate my character and integrity.”
Eyewitness News previously reported that Rep. Anastasia Williams, D-Providence, said someone she respected “had the audacity” to call her the slur. She did not name that person.
Williams made the claims and used the slur while addressing House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and other members of the chamber on the House floor Thursday. The incident was captured on Capitol TV.
Eyewitness News reached out to Rep. Williams for comment but has not yet heard back.
Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell’s Full Statement:
Long Letter Alert
An Open Letter to my Neighbors
Re: House Floor Incident on Thursday, February 13, 2020
Over the last few days so many of you have reached out to me via text, phone calls or in person. You have offered your love and support in relation to the unfortunate turn of events that occurred on the floor of the House of Representatives last Thursday.
This truly unfortunate incident ,you all should know occurred because of my insistence that while I am pleased and celebrate the $1 raise in the minimum wage , we must go further, and we must not stop until we get to a $15 Living Wage by 2024. I do not want this part of the conversation to be overtaken by negative media reporting or other inaccuracies. I want to set the record straight.
This post is not intended to illicit debate, or disrespectful discourse. It is meant to clarify my position, and post that are abusive or intended to further divide or cause further harm will be deleted.
I do not want Black History Month to be eclipsed by an argument that was only meant to cause divisions and dissensions in the Black and Brown Community. These kinds of conversations and divisions are indicative of some of the things that intentionally keep Communities of Color left behind, suppressed and denied of the social and economic opportunities that we all need to thrive.
I want to be abundantly clear; I will always fight for all of us. I will continue to fight with the utmost dignity for our core Democratic Values which include a $15 Living Wage.
Massachusetts is now $12.75 per hour and because they have a predictable path, they will get to $15.00 an hour, January 1, 2023. That was all I was advocating and debating for on the House Floor. I know that Rhode Island needs a predictable path to $15 for our struggling families by 2024.
I have always conducted myself with the utmost dignity, integrity, transparency and boldness. I have never been one to cower or hide from the truth. I have no hidden agendas, nothing to hide and so I think I owe you an explanation.
You need to hear directly from me about what happened last Thursday. As my constituents, you deserve to know the truth.
This unfortunate incident has caused personal and emotional pain to me, my family, my constituents, my colleagues and to everyone who knows me and how hard I work. Everyone, even those who do not always agree with me know that I am committed to building our community and to fight for struggling families. We are all pained by this incident and that’s why I am addressing it publicly.
I would like to emphatically state that I have NEVER used the N word. I do not use that word around my friends, family or anyone that I come in contact with. That word is offensive and is not in my vocabulary. For anyone to think or even imagine that I would use the N word on the floor of the House of Representatives is reprehensible, repulsive, disgusting and extremely harmful to my name, my family’s name and to my character.
I spend countless hours during my day begging and pleading with young people not to use the N word. Any claim that those words came from my mouth is patently false. And, to even suggest that those words emitted from my mouth is meant to assassinate my character and integrity. I am using my voice to shed light in this very dark moment.
People who know me, spend formal or informal time with me know that using that word is off limits. I would never use such offensive and derogatory term in private, so why would I use it in any public setting?
Rep Anastasia Williams addressed the House of Representatives last Thursday about someone calling her outside of her given name. She has not said publicly or identified the person who told her that she was called out of her given name. Neither has she divulged the individual(s) who allegedly provided her with information. Barring those critical pieces of information , evidence and disclosure, everything at this point are merely hear say and speculations.
I am choosing to address this incident publicly became the media outlets and others are referencing my name as the person who called Rep Williams out of her given name.
I am also choosing to respond, because I owe an explanation to the people that I love, respect and care about. I owe an explanation to you, my constituents, children and young people, that I am a role model to, and an inspiration to. I do not want to disappoint any of you.
I am also choosing respectfully asking the media outlets to stop calling and harassing my family and extended family members. They are not public officials and should not be subjected to this level of harassment.
I am not going to respond to “he says, she says hear says or speculations”. I am just not going to do that. It is counter productive.
Rep Williams and I are not adversaries, we are Sistas, we are colleagues, members of the Black and Latino Caucus and Women of Color who face similar kinds of scrutiny and challenges. Rep Williams and I have had breakfast meetings outside of the State House, we speak on the phone outside of State House hours, we discuss legislation together.
I do not want this very unfortunate incident to break our relationship and to stand in the way of the work that we were both elected and sent to the State House to do.
As a senior member of the House of Representatives, a Woman of Color, and someone who I respect and who has institutional knowledge of the House of Representatives, I often ask her for advice on how to advance bills that I am working on and to get them to the House Floor. She is always willing to give me advice, and I thank her.
We have sponsored and cosponsored many bills including the $15 Living Wage bill I introduced last Thursday. I look to Representative Williams for directions in negotiating the complex culture of the House of Representatives.
I would have hoped that if someone ( who clearly wants to see women of color fighting each other) told Rep Williams that I allegedly used the tern House Slave to describe her or that she felt wronged or insulted, I would have hoped that she would walk over to my desk and talk to me. We would have cleared that up immediately.
I know this very unfortunate incident have caused sadness and has been painful for our families and for our community, especially our Black and Brown Communities who love and admire both of us, so it’s in that spirit that I ask that there be reconciliation between us.
I deeply regret how everything unfolded. I hope that both Rep Williams and I will have an opportunity to discuss this unfortunate incident privately, heal together, and move on with a clear commitment to unity.
It is in the spirit of Black History Month and in the spirit of Christian Love , that I ask for reconciliation. This letter will serve as my only public statement on the matter. Thank you for the trust that you have placed in me. I am honored to serve you.