11 Real Things White Politicians Have Actually Said About Race In 2017
The age of Trump has also been an age of dramatically stripped social and political norms, and more and more, people in positions of power with radically right-wing views seemingly feel comfortable expressing themselves. Thanks in no small part to the Trump campaign's courting of the white nationalist "alt-right," some of this expression is, well, racist ― whether explicitly or implicitly, white politicians have said some terrible things about race in 2017.
Sadly, none of this is a surprise. For all the tangible racial progress America has made over the last several decades ― that is to say, those areas of progress that black America demanded and painstakingly fought white America to receive ― the United States is still a country plagued by personal and institutional racism.
And with a president sitting in the Oval Office who launched his political career with a racist screed, it's no surprise that more is bubbling to the surface. Here are 11 things white politicians have actually said about race this year ― and of course, 2017 isn't even at its halfway mark yet.
1. Frank Artiles
In an exchange with a colleague of mine in the Senate, I unfortunately let my temper get the best of me. There is no excuse for the exchange that occurred and I have apologized to my Senate colleagues and regret the incident profusely.
A Republican state senator from Florida, Artiles resigned in April over racist remarks he made to some black colleagues, dropping the n-word more than once amid a furious tirade. The statement above was his apology for the incident, which is a dismal commentary on race in its own right. Simply put, most people don't start uncontrollably spewing racial epithets when their tempers flare up.
2. Rep. Steve King
King, who represents Iowa's fourth congressional district, has never been particularly shy about airing his far-right, nationalist, and racist views. For a particularly prominent example, back in March he sent out the above tweet, praising far-right Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders and insisting that "we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." The tweet was widely condemned as racist, but King didn't back off, telling CNN he "meant exactly what he said."
3. Paul Le Page
John Lewis ought to look at history. It was Abraham Lincoln that freed the slaves. It was Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant that fought against Jim Crow laws. A simple ‘thank you’ would suffice.
Maine's Republican governor has said and done a lot of shocking things in his tenure, including voicing some wildly racist rhetoric ― back in 2016, he explicitly claimed that in Maine, "the enemy right now, the overwhelming majority right now coming in are people of color or people of Hispanic origin." And as The Daily Beast detailed, he also felt qualified to demand a "thank you" from Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights hero, for the Republican Party's involvement in ending slavery.
4. Steve King, Again
Not to be outdone, King again swiveled the spotlight onto his own retrograde attitude towards race and empathy in April, tweeting himself drinking a celebratory glass of beer after the first deportation of a Dreamer of the Trump administration. The "non-valedictorian" part is a reference to King's past remarks that for every valedictorian undocumented immigrant, there are 100 drug-runners with "calves the size of cantaloupes."
5. Joe Walsh
Ok, fair enough, he's not actually an elected Republican politician right now ― but he served in the House of Representatives after the Tea Party wave of 2010, and he's as representative as anyone of how willfully blind countless GOP representatives and officials are on matters of race right now. As quoted above, Walsh claimed during a CNN segment earlier this year that former president Barack Obama was held to a lower standard of behavior than President Trump because he's black. After you've scooped your jaw up off the floor, you can watch his comment ― and political commentator Angela Rye's response ― in the video embedded above.
6. Mike Huckabee
One way to be bad about race is to make it clear how little you care about it with a random, unfunny, abrupt "joke." Enter former Arkansas governor and 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who marked Cinco de Mayo on Twitter by pledging to spend his day guzzling salsa and watching Speedy Gonzales cartoons. The underlying message: I care so little about how I talk about race that I'll say something wildly inane and offensive for a joke this bad.
7. Marine Le Pen
Just watch the interlopers from the world come and install themselves in our home. They want to transform France into a giant squat. But it's up to the owner to decide who can come in. So our first act will be to restore France's frontiers.
You don't have to be an American to voice problematic or demagogic views on race, as French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen proved early this year. Speaking at a campaign event in April, just weeks out from the election, Le Pen condemned "interlopers" who wanted to "install themselves" in France.
8. Nigel Farage
I always believe that we should govern our own country. I always believed that we should be free to reach out, and make our own deals with our real friends in the world. And it's funny: our real friends in the world speak English, have common law, and stand by us in times of crisis.
When Farage ― formerly the head of Britain's far-right UKIP, now a sort of conservative pseudo-celebrity and hanger-on in the American pro-Trump movement ― spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year, he argued that to be a real friend to Britain, you need to speak the same language. Not exactly subtle, this guy. Does this mean he considers multilingual English-speaking countries to be frenemies?
9. Donald Trump
Number one, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your entire life. Number two, racism. The least racist person. As a matter of fact, we did very well relative to other people running as a Republican.
Of course, Trump had to find his way onto this list. Although some of his most vocal and naked racism and demagoguery has been tempered since taking office ― he's now recast his blanket Muslim ban proposal as a travel ban, although so far that hasn't fooled the courts ― he did bristle in February when a reporter asked him about incidents of racial hatred around the country during his young administration. Trump's response was to insist he was the least racist person ever. Which is funny, because a lot of self-avowed non-racists have never once been federally investigated for housing discrimination.
10. Geert Wilders
Closing mosques may be more difficult but you can do it. You have to change the Constitution. It takes time, certainly in Holland... but I am a lawmaker and if anyone can change the constitution and propose this, it's me.
The far-right Dutch parliamentarian may have lost his bid to become prime minister earlier this year, but not without running on a platform to "de-Islamize" the entire country, including shuttering every mosque in the Netherlands, banning the sale of the Koran, and banning all Muslims from immigrating. While some people took to calling him the "Dutch Trump," in reality, he's been deeply committed for decades to a far more draconian, outwardly racist, and extreme ideology.
11. Steve King, One More Time
Looks like we've found a winner for the white congressman who's absolutely the worst on race ― King makes it very tough on the competition. In the run-up to the French presidential election, King deployed some more of his "shared civilization" rhetoric in endorsing Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the far-right National Front. Under normal circumstances, you might call this a racist dog whistle, but with King it's really more of an air horn.