On Monday, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed a public safety budget bill that would, among other things, increase penalties for protesters arrested for blocking freeways in this state.
Now let's get to yesterday. As the bill came up for a floor debate, Democrats like DFL Rep. Ilhan Omar tried convincing House Republicans their bill is a strike against civil rights, and would've effectively blocked protests like Martin Luther King's march in Selma, Alabama.
House DFL leader Melissa Hortman probably didn't expect Omar to convince the House GOP caucus. But, she reasoned, the least they could do is sit there and listen.
Hortman moved for a "call of the House," which forces then-absent members to come back to their desks on the floor. Hortman's call came with an added twist: "I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate."
This invocation of race and gender did not sit right with Republicans. House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, for one, said Hortman's comment was inappropriate and "racist."
Later, Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, who is both "white" and "male," called for a chance to speak.
"The comment that was made by the minority leader, I guess, got me goin' here," Dettmer said.
Gee Bob, that's terrific! Glad you found something that excites you.
"I'm a white male," Dettmer continued. "I respect everybody. But I really believe the comments that were made by the minority leader were really not appropriate." Then, turning to Hortman: "Minority leader, would you apologize to the body?"
Who knows what Dettmer expected from Hortman in that moment, but it probably wasn't this:
"Representative Dettmer, I'm glad you asked me to yield. I have no intention of apologizing. I am so tired of watching Rep. Susan Allen give an amazing speech, Rep. Peggy Flanagan give an amazing speech, watching Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn give an amazing speech, Rep. Rena Moran give the most heartfelt, incredible speech I've heard on this House floor, as long as I can remember, watching Rep. Ilhan Omar give an amazing speech... and looking around, to see, where are my colleagues? And I went in the retiring room, and I saw where a bunch of my colleagues were. And I'm really tired of watching women of color, in particular, being ignored. So, I'm not sorry."
Sadly, Hortman was without the tools to do an appropriate mic drop, though she did show a little extra verve in clicking off her desk microphone.
Dettmer wasn't done yet: "All I know is, if I would've made a comment like that, it probably would've made the front page of the newspaper."
Dettmer is picturing some scenario in which he called on the handful of people of color to pay attention -- or even, say, be in the room -- while someone's talking. Hard to even imagine why that would be necessary.
But "white males"? That's a big group. Of the 77 members in the House GOP majority caucus, 56 are white guys. That's 72 percent of the majority caucus, and more than 40 percent of the whole House chamber. And white (Republican) men chair 19 out of 28 House committees. If they're not paying attention... what's the point in talking?
Besides, Representative Dettmer: Look, what Representative Hortman said did make the news. This is the news!
We doubt she regrets it.
Watch their exchange below.
And for good measure, here's that Rena Moran speech Hortman was talking about.
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