As Prepared for Delivery
I rise today to speak to how the tale of two Kings has brought us to this moment in history.
If he had been allowed to live, today would have been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 90th birthday. On this auspicious day, this august body stands ready to vote to disapprove of Representative Steve King’s recent comments and condemn white nationalism and white supremacy.
White supremacy and white nationalism are evil. They are insidious and are clear and present dangers to our great Republic.
Reported hate crimes rose 17-percent in 2017, which was the third consecutive year with an increase. This is appalling and unacceptable.
When elected representatives give cover and comfort to those who spread racial divisiveness, we embolden those on the fringe of our society. We have seen some of the results:
- the massacre of nine parishioners in historic Charleston’s Emmanuel AME Church at the hands of a young man who believed he would be “rescued by white nationalists after they took over the government”;
- the murder of 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh by a gunman who believed the Jews were “waging a propaganda war against Western civilization”;
- and, we saw it in Charlottesville, Virginia at the white nationalist’s “Unite the Right” rally where they chanted the Nazi phrase “blood and soil.”
Some have questioned me about this resolution, why now? My guidance comes from Dr. King, who wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail,
“Time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel, continued Dr. King, that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will...We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
Now is the time to do right. We have reached a tipping point. Racial divisiveness is a fault line that is ripping our nation apart. This body must speak out against this evil. The time has come to condemn those of ill will and say they have no part in our great nation.
When the French historian Alexis Tocqueville visited this country, he observed its greatness and set out to find the source of the “genius” that made it so. He wrote in his book, Democracy in America, that, “the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.”
White supremacy and white nationalism are faults that cannot be repaired but must be removed.
I ask my colleagues today to stand with me and condemn white supremacists and white nationalists and acknowledge these concepts are not only offensive but evil.