Wisconsin lawmaker cites black culture in justifying rebuke

MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin state senator accused of using offensive language in an argument with a Milwaukee bank teller said Monday she thought she could speak that way because both of them are black and conversations in black culture are different than in other settings.

Sen. Lena Taylor, a Milwaukee Democrat, told a Wells Fargo branch teller on April 6 that he was a "good house (N-word)" because he wouldn't verify sufficient funds existed to cover a check Taylor received from a tenant, according to a police report.

The report alleges that Taylor was speaking loudly, acting aggressively, pointing at bank workers and demanding to speak to a manager. An officer wrote that he stepped between Taylor and the teller because he was afraid Taylor might hit him. Police ultimately cited her for disorderly conduct.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Taylor told WNOV-AM during a two-hour interview on Monday that she thought she could speak that way because both she and the teller are black and conversations within black culture are different than other conversations.

Taylor added that she used a different phrase that sounds like "Negro."

A WNOV caller told Taylor the exchange was offensive no matter what word she used because she used the word "house." The listener asked Taylor if she felt what she said was offensive. Taylor responded by saying she didn't know how the teller felt.

Taylor said the officers at the bank overreacted. She said they were white and cultural competency isn't a strong point for the Milwaukee Police Department. A police spokeswoman didn't immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

She has pleaded not guilty to the disorderly conduct citation and has a pretrial appearance Aug. 1.

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