DFL House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman channeled Beyoncé last night when she refused to apologize for calling out her white male colleagues for disrespecting women, women of color in particular, during a legislative bill debate.
House members were debating a bill that would add harsher penalties for shutting down a road or freeway as part of a protest — a tactic that Black Lives Matter has successfully used in drawing attention to racial injustices happening across the country. Rep. Ilhan Omar had just given a speech tying the action of Black Lives Matter protesters to the civil rights protests in Selma, Alabama — where state troopers brutally assaulted protesters.
Rep. Hortman noticed that several of her male colleagues were not on the floor listening to the speech, but were instead in the retiring room – a lounge type of room off of the House floor where elected officials can go to relax – playing cards. She requested that they come back to the floor, stating, “I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate.”
Rep. Bob Dettmer responded saying, “…I really believe the comments made by the minority leader were really not appropriate,” and asked her to apologize.
Rep. Hortman replied, “I have no intention of apologizing,” and that she was “really tired of watching women of color in particular being ignored. So I’m not sorry.”
Rep. Greg Davids, currently the longest serving Republican in the House who was presiding over the session, later chimed in and said that Hortman’s comments were “racist” and “extremely offensive and divisive [and] created a hostile work environment” and called on her to resign.
Being told to listen to women and do your job is not what creates a “hostile work environment.” A hostile work environment is when white Republican male legislators ignore the words and speeches of their women of color colleagues, of whom are vastly underrepresented in the Minnesota legislature (there are only nine women of color out of 201 elected officials in the House and Senate).
Furthermore, Rep. Davids was quick to point out the perceived (and false) racism towards his white male colleagues, but when it comes to addressing the history of actual racism of other elected leaders in his caucus like Reps. Nolan West and Pat Garofalo, he has been silent.
Rep. Davids should be the one apologizing for the consistent disrespect by men in his caucus towards women of color in the House and his hypocrisy at crying racism over Rep. Hortman’s comments and not when his fellow Republicans make actual racist comments. Until then, all I have to say is boy, bye.