A group of concerned citizens showed up and spoke at Monday’s Salina City Commission meeting to voice concerns about a term Mayor Karl Ryan used last week which they believe to be racist.
While discussing an issue involving the city paying for care of a large number of farm animals which were seized in an abuse case Ryan used the phrase “tar baby”.
Ryan says says his mother would call him a “tar baby” when he was being difficult. He says he first heard the phrase in Joel Chandler Harris’ “Uncle Remus” tales of Br’er Rabbit and Tar Baby.
Others disagree, and say the phrase has derogatory and racial overtones.
Salina City Commissioner Melissa Hodges apologized for not speaking up last week, at the time the phrase was used.
Among the citizens who spoke was James Talley. He said “what you say, what you do, you can make mistakes.” Tally then went on to say “how you proceed after you have made those mistakes speaks to your character, and speaks to what you believe it means to represent all of the citizens of Salina.”
Salina City Commissioner Dr. Trent Davis said “I don’t believe for a minute that Mayor Ryan uttered those words with an intent to have a racial or bigotry motive behind them.” He added, though, they are words that in this country which are similar to others we have had to remove for out literature.
After listening to everyone speak, some of whom called for him to resign, Mayor Ryan spoke. He said he has taken many of the remarks he heard “to heart,” particularly those of Talley.
Ryan concluded that he will “learn from this experience, and certainly try to continue to learn.