Sunday, August 20, 2006

Quote of the Day: “Blacks aren’t the best swimmers or may not even know how to swim.”

That "beaut" was uttered several months ago - but just now is making its way public - by Florida Republican congressional candidate Tramm Hudson, who is running to fill Katherine Harris's 13th district seat in November. The Republican primary is September 5th.

Republican Congressional candidate Tramm Hudson was forced Thursday to explain a controversial racial comment he made during a February speech to the Christian Coalition, after a video clip of the event appeared on an Internet site.

Hudson was relating a military training exercise in Panama from 1984 when his unit had to get across a river. He said his unit was predominantly comprised of black soldiers.

"I grew up in Alabama and I understand, and I know this from my own experiences, that blacks aren't the best swimmers or may not even know how to swim," Hudson said at the event. A black soldier ended up falling in the water and nearly drowned, Hudson said. Hudson attributed the soldier's survival to "divine intervention."

Hudson was talking to the Christian Coalition about his wishes that religion not be kept out of the military.

The video clip on the Internet cuts off a few seconds after Hudson's comments about blacks and swimming.

The release of the clip quickly became more fodder for a growing personal battle between Hudson and Vern Buchanan, another Republican in the 13th District Congressional race who has recently become the target of Hudson campaign mailers, television advertisements and even a Web site entitled "The Real Vern." Hudson, who has made ethics the cornerstone of his campaign, has accused Buchanan of having poor business ethics and faulty resumes and for avoiding paying his fair share of taxes.

While Buchanan said during a candidate's forum Thursday that Hudson's comments revealed that "he does not have the judgment to be a congressman," Hudson issued an apology Thursday and encouraged voters to look at comments from local black leaders that show this to be "much ado about nothing."

"I said something stupid," Hudson said in a statement released Thursday. "I apologize for it. . . . This was a thoughtless remark that does not reflect my lifetime commitment to treating everyone fairly and without bias."

While Hudson's broader message may have been appropriate for his audience, if he's going to play in the political arena, then he absolutely MUST learn to speak more carefully. In an age of sound bites, it's very easy for an off-the-cuff comment to be misconstrued and misunderstood. Hudson's comment about the swimming ability of blacks is a stereotype that he seems to believe, in spite of the fact that former University of Florida All-America and Olympic swimmer Anthony Nesty is, in fact, black. But I guess that would have put a hole in the story he was trying to relate.

On a personal note, Tramm Hudson was a business co-worker of mine many years ago. Even back then, he had a deserved reputation as a loose cannon. He even kept a hand grenade on his desk for good measure. Due to his fervent military ties, his aggressive nature and his short stature, many of us referred to him as "Napoleon". Believe me, the name fit.

Tramm also displayed a penchant for dated customs, such as men repairing to the den for brandy and cigars after dinner while the women stayed in the kitchen doing the dishes. Even in the 1980s, that seemed a bit behind-the-times to those of us who dined in his home.

Tramm Hudson may, in fact, have some very positive attributes he could bring to Washington. However, he appears to be a candidate more attuned to the 1950s than the 2000s. We need leaders in Washington with an eye on the future rather than two feet dug deeply in the past.

Here's hoping Hudson continues his banking career in Sarasota and leaves the governing to more progressive types. And to those who do not so easily stereotype the abilities of others.


At 6:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A fuss is being made by the Vern Buchanan campaign about a few words extracted from comments made by Tramm Hudson some time ago about his experience in the US Army during river crossing training in Panama, when one of his soldiers almost drowned. The first statement is from Tramm and the second is from my wife Frances Rice.

Perhaps of interest, Peter Rice

Tramm Hudson's words from a blog that has the transcript:

1984 we were in Panama. Our unit was doing a two-week training down there. I commanded an infantry company and we were practicing crossing a river. You know, an infantry company has 140 some-odd soldiers. A large number were black. I grew up in Alabama and I understand and I know this from my own experiences that blacks aren’t the best swimmers or may not even know how to swim. But we were crossing this and wanted to make sure every soldier could swim and if they couldn’t we’d get them across the river. We had the line across the river and we were making our passage way and one of the black soldiers with his ruck-sack on his back, his weapon and fell from the line…he let go. Sunk down to the bottom of the river. And I’ve got to tell you, it took my breath away. Two of the sergeants manning the boats immediately jumped into the river and pulled that soldier out form below. They gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitations and we called in a medivac helicopter to take him to the hospital. That soldier could have died. I believe it was divine intervention. That was a Saturday afternoon. And that next morning we had a worship service among our NCOs and our officers. And I led that worship service. And I think, in terms of answering your question that if we allow congress or the federal government to remove that from the chaplain’s core that would be just terrible. And I believe that being able to worship and to express out religious beliefs if it’s in the military, so be it. Or if it’s alone as individuals, you would find me defending that. I’ll just pass this around because this was manifold when I read about the law that someone was trying to pass.


Statement of Frances Rice

"I am a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and an African American woman. Like Tramm, I commanded troops in the field. I reviewed the complete video tape of his remarks about the river crossing in Panama and do not find it offensive. It shows an awareness and concern for his troops and quite possibly was the reason the soldier was rescued so promptly. I have direct experience with racism and know what racism is. Tramm’s remarks were not racist. To take his words out of context and portray this as something it is not, is the height of demagoguery and smacks of race baiting."

Frances Rice - Lieutenant Colonel, US Army, Retired
Sarasota, FL
Chairman of the National Black Republican Association

Please visit the Internet site of Tramm Hudson at:

At 10:54 PM, Blogger DrewL said...


Thanks for the clarification and the supportive words to Tramm Hudson from your wife. I certainly respect your opinions.

But I also respect the opinions of others, including many African-Americans, who found Mr. Hudson's comments to be a well-worn stereotype. Perpetuating such stereotypes is something our leaders shouldn't be doing. Mr. Hudson's assumption that a black soldier couldn't swim was based on a stereotype. For all he knew, this soldier was a former champion swimmer. But because he was black, he assumed that he couldn't swim.

If the town in which I grew up was full of blacks who were criminals, should I automatically assume that the African-American in my unit is going to steal my belongings? I don't think so. Again, that is stereotyping.

Tramm Hudson's comments were inappropriate. He knows that. He has acknowledged as much. And I applaud him for apologizing, as he has. Let's let the voters sort out the rest.

At 3:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t understand what the big fuss is all about. The fact that many American blacks do not swim as well as other races is undoubtedly due to their culture. If I made the statement that many blacks make poor marksmen and swimmers, I’m drawing on my life experience that’s shown me that this is true, and not some bigoted hate motivated view that lacks any objective observation. To this day, it simply amazes me to think of just how many black men I’ve witnessed that lacked swimming and marksmanship skills.

I served in the United States Marine Corps. In boot camp, half of my unit was black. When we went to swim qualification, many men in the platoon had problems with qualifications. Not one white or Hispanic man had a problem with swim qualification, in reality, it was floating and turning your clothing into flotation devices. All of the “unks” that had to requalify were black. I watched as several black men jumped into the water with big open eyes as they cringed in fear of the water. As well they should. If I didn’t know how to swim, never swam, and had a real fear of drowning, I’d shiver in fear at the thought of jumping into eight – ten feet of water in full field dress. I simply assumed that blacks don’t swim like white and Hispanic boys do, it’s a cultural thing.

At the rifle range, all of our unks were again black. The 500 yard line proved to be very hard for the young black men to master. Since I was a crack shot, I was given extra ammo, and I shot the 500-yard line for the two black men that were placed next to me.

From all this, I have assumed that black men do not shoot rifles or swim very often due to their cultural differences. I’m quite sure that any black man that grew up shooting and swimming would do as well as anybody else.

If you think that my statements are motivated by hate, I’d suggest taking a look at how you process information. You’re the one with the problem!


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