Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 36: Ilhan Omar and Melissa Hortman


It just demonstrates that I am not Catholic, not realizing that the "40 days of Lent" don't include Sundays. (Catholics are more likely to know this because it's a day off from abstention.) The program I've been following has 40 days of Lent, including Bible verses, but there's actually more like 46 days! So I'm filling the missing days with Bible verses that better fit my voices. It's actually more fun after all.

Here are my voices today: Ilhan Omar and Melissa Hortman, both representatives in the Minnesota House. On Monday, Democrats in the house were arguing against a public safety budget bill that would increase penalties against protesters.

Omar made an impassioned speech, arguing that the increase in penalties would weaken civil rights and could have blocked historic demonstrations throughout history. Elected in November, she is the first Somali-American legislator in the country. She was born in Somalia and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before immigrating to the United States at age 12.



While Omar was speaking, House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman noticed that several male representatives were not present, as they had excused themselves to visit the retiring room to play cards. When she observed this, she moved for a “call of the House,” which requires absent members to return to their desks, and said, "I hate to break up the 100% white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate," as the group of white male representatives returned to the chamber.

Of course, the House Republicans were displeased and defensive. House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin called Hortman’s remarks “racist” (WTF?), while Representative Bob Dettmer stood up for the poor white men. “I’m a white male. I respect everybody. But I really believe the comments that were made by the minority leader were really not appropriate,” Dettmer said. He then asked Hortman to apologize.

But instead of apologizing, Hortman did not back down. 
"Representative Dettmer, I'm glad you asked me to yield," she began. "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."
The next day, Hortman was still standing her ground: 
"This is a new thing, members sitting in the back playing cards for extended periods of time. There is a whole new level of disrespect and disregard for debate and discussion. I don't know a lot of people who get to sit for two hours and play cards and ignore what everyone else at their workplace is doing."
Bravo for Ilhan Omar and Melissa Hortman for sticking together and standing up for justice! Sadly, the public safety budget bill was passed because the Minnesota House is mostly white men. Of the 77 members in the House GOP majority caucus, 56 are white males, which accounts for 72 percent of the majority caucus and more than 40 percent of the House chamber alone. White Republican men also chair 19 of the 28 House committees.

We have to stick together during these troubled times and continue to #resist.

Read more of my "I Was a Stranger" entries here.

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