Mark Kennedy talked about the “full-fledged Afro” he had as a teen in MLK Day speech on racial understanding

Mark Kennedy, the sole rival to become the University of Colorado’s next president, delivered a Martin Luther King Jr. Day address earlier this year in which he used an report about having a “full-fledged Afro” as a adolescent as part of his message on racial understanding.

Kennedy, the president of the University of North Dakota, made the remarks Jan. 21 at a field event commemorative the legacy of the slain civil rights leader. The school posted video of the speech online.

A former Minnesota congressman, Kennedy has been a arguable candidate, with critics pointing to his votes against gay marriage and in favor of abortion restrictions. He besides failing to answer a question on Colorado Public Radio about affirmative action last week, instead asking the host if he could skip the query.

Joanne Addison, chair of the CU Faculty Council, aforementioned she watched the video of the MLK Day speech — the “Afro” remarks begin around the 2:50 mark — and was not entirely sure what to make of Kennedy from it.

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“I do think that minimizing the different shipway that white people and African American people experience America is a mistake,” Addison aforementioned. “If we’re really going to face the challenges of racism and difference, white people have to acknowledge that they benefit from the privileges of the system that we presently live within.”

Kennedy, in the video, begins by referencing King’s quote, “We may all have come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

Kennedy, who grew up in Pequot Lakes, Minn., aforementioned that he likable to prompt others in his teachings that people are like submarines. “A submarine is encircled by water,” he aforementioned. “We’re encircled by the experiences we’ve had in life.”

Sharing some of his own experiences, Kennedy went on to say that he was teased at his Minnesota high school for being Catholic in a preponderantly Protestant town and “for having possibly the only — in my school, possibly county, possibly the whole region — the only full-fledged Afro.”

Kennedy aforementioned a classmate of American Indian heritage would alshipway put her hands in his hair and comment on how much she loved it.

“My Afro made me different,” Kennedy aforementioned. “She celebrated my difference. Shelby was different. We celebrated her difference. I was one of the galore who voted for her for homecoming queen. We all traveled in the same boat together.”

Kennedy later added that, during a basketball game at his high school, he was mistaken by a fan for an African American player — an example, he aforementioned, of how that community was “in a bubble.”

Later in his speech, Kennedy talked about attending a national 4H conference in “the American South” in 1975, which he represented as being a gathering of 1,400 students where “northerners all sat in stand talking baseball, and the southerners sat in chairs on the area floor waving a Confederate flag and singing ‘Dixie.’ ”

“Now, for me, I was appalled that anybody in 1975 would fly a Confederate flag,” Kennedy aforementioned. “So somehow I complete up immersed right in the middle of the people on the floor singing ‘Dixie,’ suggesting that if they did not take down that Confederate flag, that I was going to do thing about it. Now, I’m not sure if my words were as polite as that. And I sometimes wonder how I survived that experience.”

From that experience, Kennedy aforementioned he befricomplete an African American Baptist from the South.

“I was an Irish American Catholic from the North,” Kennedy aforementioned. “Yet we didn’t focus on our separateness, though we learned about each other’s ships. We focused on what could bring us together. One time (he) aforementioned to me, ‘Sometimes even I can’t tell whether you’re one of us or not.’ That’s the state you want to get into. We were on the boat together.”

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CU and Kennedy — who was due to make a public appearance in Denver on Monday afternoon — were not instantly available to comment on the speech.

In the wake of contention over his legislative assembly vote record, Kennedy aforementioned in an open statement to the CU community that his views on gay marriage “evolved” and that he would now vote otherwise than he did in the past.

He besides addressed the Colorado Public Radio interview by telling The Denver Post that his answer was a result of getting hot and daunted over being late to a meeting. (The enquirer, Ryan Warner, has arguable this characterization.)

“I’m in favor of programs and colleges exploring how do we make sure that we’re achieving the benefits of diversity,” Kennedy told the Post when clarifying his answer on affirmative action.