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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Racism and disrespect in the Statehouse

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You can’t make this stuff up.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “the truth is stranger than fiction,” or some variant. It’s definitely true when it comes to actions at the Statehouse a week ago.
There’s so much to unpack, I’m not sure where to begin. I think I’ll start with the general disrespect.

Adults booing other adults in a professional setting, in the Statehouse no less. The place where decorum rules. The Statehouse isn’t a gymnasium or stadium. Booing is considered appropriate in these venues because you want your opponent to lose. However, legislation isn’t a game. People’s lives are involved in every single piece of legislation lawmakers create. I understand there often is the perception of winners and losers based on the bills that pass and those that don’t, but the idea is to draft legislation for the good of all Hoosiers.

Those grown people who thought booing was an appropriate response need to apologize not only to their fellow legislators, but also to their constituents and all residents of Indiana. We made the national news and not for a good thing. We made it for an absolutely nonsensical dumb thing. I’m flummoxed at the lack of a reprimand from the Indiana GOP and House Speaker Todd Huston for such disappointingly childish behavior.

A former senator said he doesn’t believe the booing was racist. It sure seemed that way when you boo a Black man talking about a bill that could discriminate on race and another who shared his experiences with race-based discrimination. I see how white men don’t see the existing racism because they never do. That’s why we’re still here in 2021.

I’ll be honest, I was too through at the booing. I thought there’s no way this thing could get any worse, and then it did.

Rep. Jim Lucas was so bothered by the listening to experiences of racism that he walked out. He even told another publication he wanted something better to do than “sit there and listen to it.” Again, disrespectful, and it certainly looked racist. Now, Lucas is no stranger to racism. He was reprimanded last summer for sharing a racist meme, so I can see why Rep. Vanessa Summers called him a racist. However, it wasn’t Lucas who took offense. It was the guy standing next to him, who Summers said she wasn’t even talking to, Rep. Sean Eberhart.

Now, Eberhart told another news outlet, “I don’t have a racist bone in my body.” I have to chuckle on that. I don’t know Eberhart, but I know America, and we live in a society built on racism. He needs to get a deeper understanding of the word and how it permeates just about every facet of our lives. But Eberhart’s reaction was so visceral, Summers must’ve struck a nerve. He didn’t object profusely or have a conversation with Summers about her misperception. No, he got big mad and tried to fight her, according to Summers. He had to be pulled away. This man was enraged. So, if he’s not racist, he appears to be violent and abusive toward women. None of these are good looks — especially for a lawmaker.

Again, where is the GOP or Huston on this?

It doesn’t end there, however, as there was a second incident in the restroom where Rep. Vernon Smith said Rep. Alan Morrison verbally assaulted him. Maybe this incident has nothing to do with race, but it’s definitely disrespectful (again). And guess what, disrespect is often tied to race. So, I can see how the Black people involved would see racism, and I can see how the white people involved don’t.

Again, nothing from the GOP or Huston.

At the very least, the Republican party and state lawmakers should be concerned with looking disrespectful of their colleagues. Their deafening silence comes through loud and clear. They don’t care because they don’t have to — or at least that’s what they thought.

But as so often seems to happen, they didn’t read the room. This isn’t 2019.
The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC) has called for reprimands and implicit bias training. I have no doubt Rep. Robin Shackleford, IBLC chair, will stand firm. Not only does she have the backing of IBLC members, but Black people and those in the fight against racism have her back, and we’re not letting this slide.

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