State Sen. Jeff Golden addresses the use of the “N-word” in book he wrote

ASHLAND, Ore. – State Senator Jeff Golden is speaking out, after a Fox News report revealed he used the “N-word” multiple times in a book he wrote 51 years ago.

The book was written after he spent a summer on a Georgia share-cropping farm.

Senator Golden is apologizing for using language, he said, was describing what was going on around him at the time.

In the book, titled “Watermelon Summer,” Golden wrote about his experience with an African-American sharecropping family while working on a civil rights project.

Several times the Ashland democrat used the “N-word”.

He told NBC5 he was describing the language of racism and hostility used by some in the community… That was directed toward the people he was staying with.

Looking back five decades later, Golden said it’s clear how much damage using that language can cause.

“I‘ve never used that word myself, my feelings, and I wouldn’t in the book,” Senator Golden said. “But as I was describing something maybe really hairy that was happened that day, i said, here’s what they said, this is what they think and at the time I didn’t think say ‘N-word’, don’t write the whole word.”

Golden added in a lengthy statement that no matter the context, the “N-word” is harmful and he apologizes to those deeply offended by reading the word.

The state senator represents much of Jackson county and is currently running for re-election against Republican Medford Mayor Randy Sparacino.

Here’s the full statement from Senator Golden:

I’ve been asked to comment on the charge that the journal I wrote in the summer of 1970 was racist.
 
First a little about the book in question. Watermelon Summer (Lippincott & Company, 1971) is a journal I kept when I lived with an African-American sharecropping family while working on a civil rights project in Lee County, Georgia in 1970.  It was an early chapter in a lifetime of political activism centered partly on advancing social and racial justice in America. The N-word, fully spelled out, appears in those passages of the book where I described and ridiculed the language of hostile, bigoted people we encountered (we also met delightful, hospitable Georgians that summer). 
 
Books of that era often contained the spelled-out word to describe the language of racism. I’ve long since learned how much pain that word has caused, and still does, and that using it is harmful in any context. While none of the dozens of readers who’ve contacted me over the years ever suggested that Watermelon Summer is remotely racist, I can understand how people reading the isolated sentences circulating this week could be deeply offended by reading this truly ugly word. I am sorry for that.
 
Beyond suggesting that interested people read the book to make their own judgments, that’s about all there is to say. Going further would give life to a desperate campaign ploy we’ve seen two times before, in 1989 and 2018. In both cases, sentences from the book were ripped out of context and publicized in the last weeks of faltering campaigns to pull voters’ attention away from meaningful issues and the positions that my opponents and I had on them. 
 
This week’s Fox story about my book, and the outraged online postings that followed, have no genuine concern about racism’s damage to people and communities. They are 100% about distracting voters in the campaign’s final weeks from issues like homelessness, full access to healthcare and education, reproductive and other privacy rights, coping with the cost of living, the stranglehold of Big Money on politics, protection from catastrophic fire—there’s a long list. This week’s attack, pushed desperately across the Internet, says “Don’t look at all that! Look over here at this word that Golden wrote down multiple times 52 years ago in his journal! And don’t look at what he’s actually done in a very public life ever since. Don’t look at his record and ideas, or his opponent’s… look at this word!”
 
This tactic is deeply cynical. I don’t plan to fuel it with more comment.
NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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