Professor Brian Smith of Ripon College’s Center for Politics and the People welcomes visitors to a panel discussion that features, from left, Rose Hogmire, Diana Lewis, LaPerish Barnes and Jody Roy.
Professor Brian Smith of Ripon College’s Center for Politics and the People welcomes visitors to a panel discussion that features, from left, Rose Hogmire, Diana Lewis, LaPerish Barnes and Jody Roy.

   “Let’s say you’re at an MLK celebration at Ripon College, and an elected official who has the floor uses the chance to respond to a question about hate and the language of hate to, on MLK day, malign a civil rights leader?

   “What do you do?”

   Ripon College history professor Sarah Frohardt-Lane’s question was not theoretical.

   During a panel discussion on hate crimes and hate speech Monday evening in the Great Hall of Ripon College’s Harwood Memorial Union, a panelist asked attendee Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, to comment on disparaging comments President Trump allegedly had made last week about Haiti and African countries.

   Grothman responded that President Trump is trying to unify the nation and sometimes people exaggerate what he says.

   He also criticized President Obama for allowing civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton to visit the White House and made the point that “America is about the most diverse, tolerant place you’re going to find” by disparaging Ethiopian ethnic strife, separatism in Spain and prejudice in Brazil.

   Grothman then left, explaining that he had to be elsewhere.

   His abrupt departure from Ripon College led to a discussion on who is responsible for hatred and how it should be addressed.

   The 2 1/2-hour panel was co-hosted by Ripon College’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion and the Center for Politics and the People in conjunction with Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018.

Read the full story, including lengthy comments from Grothman, in the Jan. 18, 2018 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.