A Cub Scout questioning a local elected official would normally result in a Citizenship in the Community merit badge—but for an 11-year-old Scout in Broomfield, Colorado, asking a state senator about racially charged comments she made during a 2013 committee hearing resulted in his expulsion from his troop.
Ames Mayfield, a fifth-grader who has been a Scout for five years, was three months from graduating to Boy Scout when he was removed from his den, allegedly for asking state Sen. Vicki Marble a series of tough questions relating to her stance on gun control and comments she had made linking consumption of barbecue and chicken to poor health among African Americans.
“I was astonished that you blamed black people for poor health and poverty because of all the chicken and barbecue they eat,” Mayfield said at a forum being held with the Scout den and the state senator. Marble denied that she had made such comments, alleging that they were “made up by the media,” and lectured Mayfield on getting his facts straight.
“So you want to believe it? You believe it,” she said. “But that’s not how it went down. I didn’t do that. That was false. Get both sides of the story.”
Mayfield’s mother, Lori, captured the line of questioning, and Marble’s denial, on tape:
Marble’s recollection is not reflected by contemporary reports, which described her colleagues in the state Senate as “stunned” when she linked African American life expectancy to chicken and barbecue.
“When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race,” said Marble, who at the time served on the legislature’s Economic Opportunity Poverty Reduction Task Force. “Sickle-cell anemia is something that comes up. Diabetes is something that’s prevalent in the genetic makeup, and you just can’t help it.”
She then complimented the taste of the foods, if not the quality.
“Although I’ve got to say, I’ve never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down South and you, I mean, I love it,” Marble said at the time. “Everybody loves it.”
After the 2013 backlash, Marble issued a statement defending her remarks, saying they “were not meant to be disparaging to any community.”
During the den meeting, Marble highlighted her own ethnic background, which she characterized as including “black, Mexican, Jew, Native American” and “lousy Irish!”
An aggressive followup question from Mayfield on a bill Marble co-sponsored that would have allowed people who had been convicted of domestic violence to own a firearm—“Why on earth would you want someone who beats their wife to have access to a gun?”—prompted the den leader to step in.
And a few days later, Mayfield was booted from the den.
“The Denver Area Council is evaluating this matter closely and will treat all parties with dignity and respect,” Nicole Cosme, marketing director of the Boy Scouts of America Denver Area Council, told The Denver Post. Mayfield has reportedly been offered membership in other dens.
“We would like Ames to stay in Cub Scouts and become a Boy Scout,” Cosme said.