Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman (R) once again finds himself in the middle of controversy, this time because of comments he made about Kwanzaa.
On December 28, 2012, Grothman issued a press release entitled "Why Must We Still Hear About Kwanzaa?" In the release he states:
"Almost no black people today care about Kwanzaa - just white left-wingers who try to shove this down black people's throats in an effort to divide Americans."
Grothman continues by claiming Democrats "don't like America" and that they want to destroy the country by ignoring the values expressed in the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. He does not explain how the celebration of Kwanzaa violates those values.
He continues by calling public school districts like those in Green Bay and Madison "irresponsible" and claims the schools are telling "a new generation that blacks have a separate holiday than Christians".
Grothman's comments caught many off guard and drew criticism from Democrats. Meg Moen, a Democratic Party treasurer, told The Patch:
"Senator Grothman seems to outdo himself every time he opens his mouth. He blames progressives and teachers, for respecting all traditions, and having the audacity to include every holiday and tradition that occurs around this time every year." Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa is celebrated for one week beginning December 26th, and is typically observed by members of the African American community. According to the University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center, Kwanzaa is not an "African" Christmas celebration and does not attempt to replace Christmas. Instead, it is a celebration of life and does not represent or dismiss any religious faith.
The celebration focuses on seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Like Hannukah, candles are used to signify the principles. According to History.com, the family gathers together each evening to light a candle and the principle of the day is discussed. The first night of Kwanzaa, the family discusses unity, the second night self-determination is discussed, and so on throughout the celebration.
On New Year's Eve, those observing the celebration exchange gifts and prepare food native to various African countries.
Controversy Surrounds Grothman
In March of 2012, Grothman was heavily criticized after introducing Senate Bill 507. The bill would have required the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to emphasize that single parenthood is a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect. Grothman told WEAU:
“50 years ago it was very rare for a child to be raised without a mother and a father at home. And in the few cases that it did happen everybody knew that that child was at risk.”
Single parents were outraged by Grothman's comments, with one single mother saying:
"I think single parents have a bad rap as it is, you get this look of pity when people look at you. Do you really have to tie one more negative thing to it like abuse?”
One month later, Grothman again received criticism when he responded to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's decision to overturn the state's equal pay law. When questioned about Walker's decision, Grothman stated:
"You could argue that money is more important for men.”