RI State Rep Levies Accusation of Racism Against Fellow Legislator UPDATED

Monday, January 07, 2019


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Rep. Marcia Ranglin Vassell (pictured) took to social media on Sunday.

A Rhode Island State Representative is accusing a fellow lawmaker of racism, following an exchange on Twitter.

Democratic Representative Marcia Ranglin Vassell, who was first elected to District 5 in Providence in 2016, posted to Facebook on Sunday, accusing Republican State Representative Brian Newberry of racism -- and bullying. 

"Rep. Newberry, the Republican Rep from [House District] 48 who has racist tendencies is and [has] been cyberbullying me," Ranglin Vassell posted to Facebook.

The statement came after an exchange on Twitter in which Ranglin Vassell questioned the education policy perspectives of legislators without teaching experience -- Ranglin Vassell is a teacher -- and Newberry criticized her approach. 

Twitter Exchange

"Most people who offer opinions [sic] abt teaching & learning have never been in a classroom, haven’t taken a course in education or educational psychology, have never had a real conversation with teachers or students. Then you should stop giving opinions U are not an expert #Iteach," Tweeted Ranglin Vassell. 

Newberry fired back via Twitter.

"All part-time legislators have expertise and experience in some areas and not others. That said, we should all respectfully listen to the views of those we represent, and if we disagree and know better, seek to educated and inform, not rudely dismiss. Give respect, Get Respect," Newberry Tweeted back. 

Ranglin Vassell then accused Newberry of being racist. 

"Stop trolling and trying to cyber bully me with your racist attitudes," Tweeted Ranglin Vassell. 

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Ranglin Vassell's Facebook post.

"Your comments do more damage to our collective reputation than an indictment. No one believes we’re all crooks but plenty will believe we all share your dismissive attitude towards those who elect us and pay our salary. If you can’t handle criticism then you shouldn’t be in office," Tweeted Newberry.

State Senator Sam Bell came to Ranglin Vassell's defense on Twitter. 

"Calling [Ranglin-Vassell] 'rude' when she was being perfectly polite is not respectful. Saying that her support for teachers is as embarrassing as an indictment is even more disrespectful. The language we use matters," Tweeted Bell. 

Ranglin Vassell Responds

Ranglin Vassell responded to request for comment on Sunday; Newberry did not respond to request for comment.

"I think it started a year ago on the House floor. [Jamal] Contreras was shot and killed in Central Falls, and I stood on the House floor and talked about his death and linked his death to lack in investments -- and poverty and joblessness," said Ranglin Vassell. "The day after that, [Newberry] stood up and said I was politicizing [the event] and being out of order and not being germane -- and not following House rules. I think that started it."

"I think there's a pattern. If I say something on Twitter -- my profile is public — when he responds directly to me, it is derisive and disrespectful in his language to me. He does it to me and not in the same vein when he does to other legislators," said Ranglin Vassell. 

"So yes, I’m saying he's doing it related to my race -- and gender. That exchange yesterday has garnered a lot of response. It's been a catalyst for a lot of reaction," said Ranglin Vassell.

"I am not naive. I know what goes on in classrooms. I’ve been teaching since 1986. When people ask why the test scores are so low, I've been saying all along [that] we need to connect the dots, the lack of investments in education," said Ranglin Vassell. "We need a $15 living wage like Massachusetts has done. We need to address the trauma kids have experienced. I was saying a lot of people are talking and throwing shade at teachers -- but they're not looking at the root causes but the manifestations -- so he attacked me again. He said if I don't want to be criticized I shouldn’t be a legislator. I said I'm not going to bullied."

Minority Leader Filippi Responds

Rhode Island House Minority Leader Blake Filippi provided a response on Sunday to Ranglin Vassell's statement on Newberry's floor comments. 

"We have clear House Rules governing when and what comments can be made from the House Floor. In clear defiance of these rules, Rep. Ranglin embarked on a long political speech from the floor. Instead of interrupting Rep. Ranglin Vassell with a point of order, Rep. Newberry waited until the next day and asked the Speaker to remind the body about the rules governing comments from the floor. Rep. Newberry did not even mention Rep. Ranglin Vassell or her prior day's speech," said Filippi. 

"Rep. Newberry was a gentleman in the face of Rep. Ranglin Vassell's blatant rules violation. Rep. Ranglin Vassell's apparent effort to recast these events and question Rep. Newberry's character is highly troubling."

This story was first published 1/6/19 6:32 PM

Updated Sunday 8:28 PM 


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