White North Carolina lawmaker apologizes after asking Black colleague racist question

Republican Rep. Jeff McNeely interrupted Democratic Rep. Abe Jones, who is Black, to question whether his athletic or minority status contributed to his educational achievements.

A white North Carolina lawmaker apologized for asking his Black colleague a racially motivated question about his educational achievements during a heated exchange on the House floor Wednesday.

According to The News & Observer, Rep. Jeff McNeely, a Stony Point Republican and a member of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus, interrupted Raleigh-based Democratic Rep. Abe Jones, who is Black, amid a discussion about an education bill that would extend the requirements for North Carolina Opportunity Scholarships.

McNeely started his question by noting Jones’ public school education before attending Harvard University and Harvard Law.

North Carolina Capitol -- racist question
During a heated exchange Wednesday on the House floor at the North Carolina Capitol in Raleigh, Rep. Jeff McNeely, a white lawmaker, interrupted a Black colleague, Rep. Abe Jones, to question whether his athletic or minority status contributed to his educational successes. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

“And the question I guess, is,” he continued, according to The News & Observer, “would you have been able to maybe achieve this if you were not an athlete or a minority or any of these things, but you were a student trapped in a school …”

McNeely continued, making a reference to “the slowest gazelle” in the wild, when House Democratic leader Robert Reives intervened and raised a point of order, saying he hoped he wasn’t the only one taken aback by the remark as he sought clarification from the Republican representative.

“I did not say that,” McNeely replied, The News & Observer reported. “I said, would that, did that end up being one of the reasons? I do not know that. I asked him this.”

Added McNeely: “I apologize, and I’ll refrain.”

Jones replied that he didn’t know the answer to McNeely’s question but pointed out that he ranked in group two on Harvard’s five-point scale. “So I earned my place, he added, “and I did well.”

McNeely kept his word and personally apologized to Jones before the meeting ended, alleging lawmakers misinterpreted his words. 

Jones accepted McNeely’s apology. “I assume he didn’t mean any harm to me,” he said.

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