Editor’s Note: Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on March 16th in response to Tweets and comments by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) this week that caused a firestorm. The comments by King were widely seen as racists, xenophobic, inflammatory, and akin to White Nationalism – including King’s support for the explicitly White Nationalist (losing) campaign of Geert Wilders in parliamentary elections in the Netherlands.
I use Twitter and have about 65,000 followers, which is pretty modest by Trump standards.
And my staff is smart enough to keep the launch codes secret from me. That way, when I want to say something, we find the right words to express what I want to say and occasionally, very occasionally, I have a chance to cool down before firing off a Tweet.
But recently, we learned that one of our colleagues does not have a reasonable staff person who helps him think through his Tweets.
On March 12th, Steve King of Iowa tweeted out his love and praise for the anti-Muslim nationalist candidate in Holland who is running on an explicitly White supremacist platform. Anti-immigration, anti-Islam, anti-refugee, and anti-people of color, this candidate is the full White Nationalist package and apparently, King and Geert Wilders are very good friends.
In his tweet, Representative King says, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
Let that sink in. In context, what it means is that A) Steve King believes western civilization is under attack by “outsiders”; and B) those outsiders can never be assimilated or be considered part of “our civilization.”
God knows what Representative King would think of my grandson, who likes to tell me that he is 100% Puerto Rican in this arm and 100% Mexican in this arm, but here in my heart grandpa, I am 100% American.
You know, I think my grandson is right and the Congressman from Iowa is wrong. I think my grandson is every bit as American as Steve King or as I am.
I was born during Jim Crow, when separate but equal was the law of the land, but during my lifetime, we fought segregation and racism, and my daughters have been fighting it even more in their generation so that exclusion, segregation and racial hatred are no longer the law of the land.
Now, at least as far as I am concerned, my grandson who was born in America is an American, whether Steve King likes it or not.
Born in Illinois, he is not someone else’s baby, he is 100% American, he is part of our civilization and is the future of America along with Steve King’s grandchildren.
Just to be clear, Representative King’s message was warmly received and retweeted by none other than David Duke, the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who has been a proud Republican candidate on numerous occasions.
Duke said, “Just in case you were thinking of moving, sanity reigns supreme in Iowa’s 4th congressional district.” And, “God bless Steve King.”
Oh, but Representative King was not done. He is never done. He did an interview with Iowa talk-radio where he discussed, “the plan” of television anchorman Jorge Ramos to make white people the minority in America, causing King to respond that, “I will predict that Hispanics and the blacks will be fighting each other before that happens.”
So, what happens when a Member of Congress makes racist remarks? Is he censured? Are his remarks taken down or rebuked by the Speaker of the House or leaders in that person’s political party?
If he traveled somewhere without getting permission or he accepted a gift like tickets to a game without the prior approval of the Congress, he would be punished. He might get censured or called-out in some way.
But for making racist comments, for supporting a racist candidate in someone else’s election, or for saying things that receive the high praise of David Duke? Probably nothing.
I have not heard leaders in the Republican Party scrambling to say that Steve King does not represent their views on race, religion, diversity, and the threat that “somebody else’s babies” pose to American civilization.
A friend in Chicago asked me what I thought was going on when a Member of Congress says such hurtful, xenophobic things, calling essentially on black and brown people to join a race war…
The answer is that people like Representative King feel empowered, empowered by the presence of Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Jeff Sessions in the White House; Empowered by a President who wants us all to fear Muslims, to fear Mexicans and frankly, to fear all Latinos, even my American grandson.
And this is what happens when good men and women remain silent. When we do not stand up to the bully, the racist, and the nationalist, they get more and more empowered and their actions become more and more normal.
Well, saying that black and brown people will be fighting each other and saying that non-white people are somehow “somebody else’s children” and not our children – the children of a nation that believes all men are created equal – well that is NOT normal and the American people will NOT accept the silence of the Republican Party when one of their own speaks out in these ways.
I am waiting for the censure, the denunciations, and the rebukes, but I suspect I will be waiting a long time.
Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez is the senior member of the Illinois delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives.