Note: This article's date has been changed to allow it to be found more easily by readers. The original date of the article is December 3, 2018.
Representative Stringer is under the microscope once again for making comments that some have interpreted to be racist. He has lost his Chairmanship of a legislative committee. And according to Cindy Barks, of the Daily Courier, the Prescott City Council will call a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss whether or not they should make a special statement or recommendations regarding Stringer’s statement.
Were the comments really racist? Frequently, media, in it’s zeal to push a chosen narrative, carefully picks out comments in order to make a point. Often that media will have limitations on exactly what they can report - only so many words in an article, only so long in a newscast. In order to attract readers or viewers, they choose a few words they think will be salacious.
In this case, does the total context of Representative Stringer’s comments make a difference?
Representative Stringer had attended a lecture by Professor Don Critchlow. Afterwards, Stringer was in the elevator with a couple of students who started asking him questions, and, unknown to him, recorded the conversation. Here is a transcript - as complete as possible, a few words or phrases were not understandable - of both recordings.
The first recording is evidently from a discussion during the lecture:
David Stringer: …Uh, the African American vote is probably over 90% Democrat, and it’s been that way for decades. The Asian-American vote, the Asian Americans are an educated culture, affluent, relatively speaking, and in our society are not an under-class, they vote overwhelmingly Democratic. The Hispanics, even middle-class Hispanics, they vote overwhelmingly Democrat, because the number one issue is immigration, and bringing more of their co-religionists and people like them, into the country. So, you’re never going to get Hispanics elected as Republicans as long as the Republican Party is for border security and lowering levels of immigration. Not going to work, they’re not that stupid. They understand which party will do more for them. And that’s a divide we’re never going to be able to breach.
John (a student): We should go out sometime and have a talk about this. I have something to say about this. I’m agreeing with you that…
David Stringer: It’s a very sensitive issue.
John: I thought it was a bit underwhelming for a Democrat election, dating back to 2010, midterm election, during Obama’s first term… But even, look at that. Barak Obama won reelection in 2012, the midterms didn’t really give us much to work with the upcoming presidential election. But Republicans gained, what was the final count in the Senate? Three in the Senate? And the GOP House, as you have pointed out, didn't do anything anyway on immigration, healthcare. They were pretty much sitting on the sidelines. I don’t think that this was the big victory that people were hoping for. And then that middle class observation - it is pretty clear, at least to me, especially after this election, thought it was clear before, but this election confirmed it, that the Democratic has now become the party of the wealthy, of elites. And it’s an uneasy alliance of very, very elite, wealthy coastal Americans and lower class urban voters, but not just money to the media, I think there was a Harvard study that showed that 90% of media coverage was anti-Trump against Republicans, who turn on late-night television, who one after another, hammering away, Silicon Valley, I have friends that work in IT that’s like, 100% um, consensus on the side of the left, so there are just so many institutional, not to mention university, so many institutional challenges here, that it’s actually amazing the Republicans do as well as they do, considering all the obstacles that, uh, that are there.
Don Critchlow: So, I am flying tomorrow for an interview for a documentary in New York City to benefit (unintelligible). So, if something happens to me, John, I want you to raise money for us by asking questions, 'Was Don Critchlow assassinated as we are making too much progress here in university as you can see by this…"
David Stringer: …been going on for decades, have to remedy those things. The point is, we're spending more money than anyone else, and not getting very much. You say, 'By what measure are we failing?' I would say our educational system is failing, I would say our military system is failing. We've been fighting these wars now over there now for a decade and a half or longer, and they don't seem to be successful at all. Do you know how long World War...
Unknown Student: Is that because this is multi cultural?
David Stringer: It’s a lack of political will…
Unknown Student: Through mob culture.
David Stringer: A lot of problems within our military. Talk to our soldiers. Huge racial conflicts and tensions in our military. Costs a fortune to run our military. Soldiers cost a lot…
Unknown Student: Because we have black people in our military.
David Stringer: No, I didn’t say that. Sir, don’t put words in my mouth now.
Unknown Student: Well, you implied that.
David Stringer: No, I didn’t imply that.
(Unable to discern conversation.)
David Stringer: I said there is racial tension in the military. I didn’t blame it on blacks or any particular ethnic group. But, uh…
Unknown Student: You’re beating around the bush here.
David Stringer: I’m not beating around the bush. Your basic premise is that we don’t have any problems here.
Unknown Student: Yes.
David Stringer: Your basic point is that we are a very successful nation. And I would suggest to you that I don’t think that’s the case.
Unknown Student: But, why are there test…?
David Stringer: Also, diversity in our country is relatively new.
Unknown Student: What do you mean? Irish and Italian - my great-grandfather… (difficult to understand)
David Stringer: They were all Europeans. By the 2nd or 3rd generation, everybody looks the same, everybody talks the same, but that’s not the case with African-Americans or other racial groups because they don’t melt in. They don’t blend in, they always look different.
Unknown Student: Sure they do.
Unknown Student: Why does looking different matter?
David Stringer: I don’t know. And maybe it doesn’t. It doesn’t to you. Maybe it doesn’t to a lot of people. But it seems to matter to a lot of people who move out of Detroit, who move out of Baltimore - you know, we have white flight in this country.
Unknown Student: Well, just because the guy… unintelligible…
David Stringer: Well, people are making free choices about where they live. Why is Anthem mostly white, and South Phoenix mostly Hispanic, right? I don’t know why, I chose people (unintelligible)
Unknown Student: I sort of want to readdress what you said about how our test scores are lower because of multiculturalism.
David Stringer: No, I said that there is an achievement gap. I said that when you look at different ethnicities…
Unknown Student: You said, 'When you break it down…'
David Stringer: When you drill down, you find that there are achievement gaps. You’ve heard about this.
Unknown Student: I have not.
David Stringer: You really have not? You have not? It’s a big debate in education.
Unknown Student: Why?
David Stringer: About why is it that some groups seem to perform better than other groups over long periods of time in spite of huge resources being put into the school.
Unknown Student: Why?
David Stringer: I don’t know why. I honestly don’t know why. But it seems to be an enduring, persistent feature of American education that not everybody is getting an equal education, or the same education, even though we’re spending roughly the same amounts of money.
Unknown Student: So, what you’re saying is,
David Stringer: But you did not know this. I am sorry. I just assumed… I’m in the Department of Education, I’m getting my Master’s degree… I’m just suggesting this is why I’m paying attention to this.
Unknown Student: I am very aware…
Unknown Student: Ok, so taking your premise here, uh, so, here in the US, your proposal here, is just to cap it off, cap off immigration.
David Stringer: Slow it down…
Unknown Student: You’re very conservative.
David Stringer: To create more opportunity for assimilation. So it’s not too much too fast.
Unknown Student: So, you end up, so you’re still where we are, which is still a fairly diverse society,
David Stringer: Yes, very diverse.
Unknown Student: So, what’s your solution then? How would you go about..
David Stringer: I don’t have a solution. I’m just pointing out the problem. I don’t have a solution. I don’t know how to fix Detroit. I don’t know if anybody does know how to fix Detroit. I don’t know how to fix that. I lived in Baltimore a few years. I don’t know how to fix that. Okay? But that’s a different issue then immigration, ok? Those cities are primarily African-American. They’re diverse, they have other groups, but they’re primarily African-American. The immigration thing is affecting Arizona, California, Texas, Florida, states like that in a very dramatic way. And it’s not - You know, it’s producing tensions and producing burdens on our system. Did you know that in Arizona we have a very large Hispanic-speaking school children. And that’s what I’m studying, ESL. But we have a bunch of overrides for ESL, 11.5%, so it costs a lot more to educate a child that doesn’t speak English as a native language. So, that’s a burden on the taxpayers, and it’s a pretty significant burden.
Unknown Student: Wouldn’t they also be included in the taxpayers?
David Stringer: It’s not, who pays taxes? Who actually pays the taxes? We just learned that 49% of the people don’t pay any taxes at all.
Unknown Student: Just income taxes.
David Stringer: 51% pay taxes, yes - sales tax. Everybody pays sales tax. But then, some people spend more than others. But if you look at who’s paying the taxes in the State of Arizona or in the United States, you’d say that some people are paying a lot more than others.
Unknown Student: I just don’t see the difference between my great-grandfather, who’s a Polish immigrant wanting a better life and somebody from Venezuela who wants to escape a socialist regime.
David Stringer: I don’t see a big difference either. I mean, you’re coming here for similar purposes, I think that’s true.
Unknown Student: There were ethnic issues for that Polish immigrant, who was called a Polack, they were discriminated against, but they assimilated.
David Stringer: The difference between the Polack, I shouldn’t say Polack, you said Polack, but I shouldn’t say Polack, the difference between the Polish-American immigrant and the immigrant from say, Somali, is that the 2nd generation Polish immigrant looks like the Irish kid and the German kid and every other kid. But, the immigrant from Somali does not.
Unknown Student: Does it matter?
David Stringer: Well, that’s a question. That’s a legitimate question. It doesn’t matter to you. Maybe that’s a good thing. It seems to matter to a lot of people.
Unknown Student: Does it matter to you?
David Stringer: Uh, I don’t know. I honestly don’t know.
Unknown Student: C’mon, you’ve got to take a position on that.
David Stringer: No, no, because we’re talking philosophically here. My opinion and my preferences really don’t. I’m an old white guy, so I look like an old white guy, you know? My career, you might be interested to know this, I spent my career in Washington, D.C., doing a lot of legal aid work for the African American community. I did literally thousands of cases. So, I had a sense that you were maybe trying to stereotype me into this old angry white man, and I am anything but. I spent my life, not in Arizona, but in a very cosmopolitan working with a lot of minorities.
David Stringer: Ok, I have to go. But thank you, nice chatting with you guys.
Unknown Student: Yes.
After that, Representative Stringer received directions to where he was going, and then thanked the students once again as he went on his way.
The first report on these recordings was in a Phoenix New Times article, "In Latest Racist Remarks, Rep. David Stringer Says Black People Don't 'Blend In'" At the beginning of the article, it is explained that, "New Times embedded highlights from the audio throughout this piece and posted the full files at the bottom." This transcript was taken from the full files at the bottom of the article.
Note from the Editor:
In full disclosure, Representative Stringer is a partner in Specialized Publishing, the parent company of Prescott eNews. However, he has no input in the editorial content of this publication. Comments he makes as a politician, or as a guy on an elevator, are comments he makes for himself.
We will not try to defend or justify his comments in this forum. We will defend his right to express his opinions - it’s a matter of free speech. He will reap the good and bad consequences of his words on his own.
The LD1 voters decided overwhelmingly in an August primary and a November general election that he should continue representing this district. Stringer received the 2nd highest number of votes for the Arizona Legislature - only behind Representative Noel Campbell.
In the meantime, it is only appropriate that Stringer's comments be considered in full context before he is judged.