OUTSIDE MILWAUKEE, WI -- Calling it a holiday that "almost no black people today care about," state Sen. Glenn Grothman is characterizing Kwanzaa as a false holiday conjured up by a racist college professor and perpetuated by hard-core liberals.
"Why must we still hear about Kwanzaa?" the Republican lawmaker from West Bend asked in a press release. "Why are hard-core left wingers still trying to talk about Kwanzaa — the supposed African-American holiday celebration between Christmas and New Year’s?"
His remarks drew immediate criticism from a Democratic party leader, who called Grothman's comments "absolutely jaw-dropping."
Starting the day after Christmas, the weeklong African-American holiday was created several decades ago by now Africana studies professor at California State University, Long Beach, Maulana Karenga.
In the 1960s, Karenga founded the black nationalist group Organization Us, which became a rival of the Black Panthers. He served time in prison in 1971 following a trial during which a female member of the group said he beat her and another woman with an electrical cord, according to a Colorado Springs Gazette article.
Senator says holiday 'divides Americans'
In his release, Grothman called for the holiday to be "slapped down."
"Of course, 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 said. "Irresponsible public school districts such as Green Bay and Madison ... try to tell a new generation that blacks have a separate holiday than Christians."
Grothman adds Karenga "didn't like the idea that Christ died for all of our sins, so he felt blacks should have their own holiday — hence, Kwanzaa."
Grothman also advises be on the lookout for K-12 and college teachers trying to pass it off as a real holiday.
"With tens of millions of honorable black Americans in our country's past, we should not let a violent nut like Karenga speak for them," he said.
Grothman, whose district includes most of Ozaukee County, including Port Washington and Saukville, received national attention earlier this year when he proposed legislation that listed single parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse.
Democrat calls comments 'absolutely disgusting'
His comments about Kwanzaa outraged a leader with the Democratic Party of Ozaukee County, who called on the senator to retract his statements.
"Senator Grothman seems to outdo himself every time he opens his mouth," said Meg Moen, treasurer of the county Democratic Party. "His recent press release about Kwanzaa was absolutely jaw-dropping. Not only does Senator Grothman seem to find his inherent racism acceptable, he implores people to follow his lead and question a holiday that African-Americans have been celebrating for years.
"He, as usual, 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," Moen added. "That press release is absolutely disgusting and drips with disdain for African-Americans and, therefore, I am calling on him to retract his statements."
What is Kwanzaa?
The holiday "brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense," reads the official Kwanzaa website, and is based on seven principles including unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
State Sen. Lena Taylor, an African-American lawmaker from Milwaukee, couldn't be reached for comment on Monday. But she said the seven days of Kwanzaa bring with it the principle of "Umoja," the Swahili term for unity, in an editorial printed in the Milwaukee Courier on Dec. 29.
A reporter also unsuccessfully attempted to reach the Wisconsin Black Historical Society for comment on Monday.
Here in Milwaukee, an event was held in celebration of each day of Kwanzaa, kicked off at the Wisconsin Black Historical Society Museum in the city.