© 2024 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
Listen | Discover | Engage a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Sen. Golden criticized for use of racial slur in book

State Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Medford, urged his colleagues to vote for the housing bill. Here he listens to arguments on the floor of the Oregon Senate in January 2019.
Bradley W. Parks
State Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, on the floor of the Oregon Senate in January 2019.

The Oregon State Senator has again come under fire for a memoir he published in 1971.

Golden wrote Watermelon Summer when he was 20 years old. The book is about a summer he spent working on a watermelon farm in Georgia with Black sharecroppers.

On Wednesday, Fox News published a story about the repeated use of a racial slur in the book.

Golden, a Democrat from Ashland, is currently running for reelection and said the story is a distraction.

"I think anybody reading it sees that I'm paraphrasing those who were hostile to us down there and hostile to civil rights," he said. "And it strikes me as a deeply cynical ploy towards the end of an election to distract voters from the issues."

He said his time at Featherfield Farm was "working on a civil rights project" that worked to get Black sharecroppers out of poverty.

In a statement, Golden wrote, "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."

"There's been good realization since about how damaging and painful [the word] is, whatever the context," he said.

Ashland.News reported that Oregon Republican Party Chairman Justin Hwang has called for Golden to resign.

But Golden said that these comments motivate him more in his campaign.

"This just makes us more determined to win the seat because we can't give into this kind of election tactic. Pulling that word out of a 50-year-old book to almost be the reverse of what was intended in the book, therefore, the candidate should resign, if that succeeds, man, where do we go from here?" he said.

Golden has been criticized during two previous campaigns for other passages in the book that were interpreted as misogynistic and opposing the Vietnam War.

"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," he said in a statement.

Calls to the Oregon Republican party were not returned.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media.