Opinion

Democratic Rep: Citing Uncomfortable Data Is White Privilege

Republican Iowa Rep. Steve King found himself accused of using his white privilege last week after he offered statistics that Democratic Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond didn’t like.

It all started at a House Judiciary Committee hearing where King brought up the high-crime rates of Central American nations that many immigrants hail from. King called the violence of countries like El Salvador shocking, but then pointed out that some cities in the U.S. have comparable murder rates. (RELATED: The Internet Blows Up Over Steve King’s Tweet About Immigration)

“That shocking number in El Salvador, that 93.09 violent deaths per 100,000 — shocking until I looked up the data that was delivered to this committee from former member and stellar member Randy Forbes of Virginia, who had gone to New Orleans to examine the violent death rate and the crime rates,” the Iowa congressman stated. “And New Orleans, this was post-Katrina, and there the violent death rate, that was actually characterized as a homicide rate, in New Orleans was 90 per 100,000.”

The murder rate for New Orleans has since lowered to 44.8 per 100,000 — a figure that still makes it one of the deadliest cities in the country.

And that talk infuriated Rep. Richmond, who represents parts of New Orleans.

“We just had a conversation about this. We’re going to lose all civility in this committee if he thinks it’s appropriate to compare New Orleans to Guatemala,” Richmond fumed while incorrectly identifying the nation King was speaking of.

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The committee chairman, Republican Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, tried to calm down the situation by pointing out the obvious. “The gentleman from Iowa has the right to make a statistical comparison between two locations,” Goodlatte said in response to Richmond’s outburst.

But that only made the Congressional Black Caucus member get even angrier and bring up the inevitable Ku Klux Klan comparison.

“You are comparing the people in the location — that would be like me comparing him [King] to somebody in the Klan. I don’t have the basis to do that,” Richmond retorted to Goodlatte, before humble bragging about how civil and bipartisan he is.

“Now I wear badges of bipartisanship because I actually take up and stand up for principles,” the Louisiana representative stated, before veering off the civil path to make veiled threats of violence to King.

“I am not going to sit here and let him do that now the people I love, the people I respect — and I live in New Orleans,” he continued. “If the gentleman persists on it, then let’s go in the back and have the conversation about New Orleans. If it takes walking across over there, then I’m prepared to do that, too.”

Richmond concluded his tirade by confidently asserting King’s data points were just a manifestation of white privilege.

“It’s not appropriate. It’s insensitive. And it’s nothing more than traditional white privilege of ‘let me criticize a minority city,'” he declared. “Now take it how you want. I’m telling you how I feel.”

King was not cowed by Richmond’s threats and responded to the diatribe that his opponent should probably recuse himself from the hearing.

The outburst from the black Democrat was greeted by some media outlets as a glorious triumph over a sinister bigot. For instance, Fusion claimed Richmond “shut down Rep. Steve King’s white privilege” by telling him data is offensive.

That asinine glorification becomes even dumber when you recall the Louisiana congressman praised himself for civility and bipartisanship. That’s a bizarre thing for any current politician to claim, especially one who last made national news for saying Kellyanne Conway looked “familiar” being on her knees. (RELATED: Media Blackout On Democrat’s Sexist Attack On Kellyanne Conway)

Guess we should applaud Richmond from moving on from vulgar jokes about prominent women to checking white privilege, but it’s still not clear how he earned his “badges of bipartisanship.” Especially when he threatens violence over facts that he made zero effort to honestly dispute.

His overall exchange with King is rather typical for liberal politicians and pundits who hear evidence they don’t like. Instead of refuting the substance of the argument presented, they go straight to crying racism or, as in this case, ridiculously invoking the specter of white privilege to silence their opponent.

Richmond made no effort to say King was wrong in saying New Orleans had a murder rate almost as high as El Salvador’s (or Guatemala’s, as the Democrat heard it). He just said it was offensive and insinuated the data was racist.

Since Richmond didn’t say the data was wrong, isn’t it a far more troubling matter that so many people are murdered in New Orleans than King mentioning the grim fact?

But the left-wing lawmaker knew what he was doing it in turning a spectacle out of his colleague’s assertions. It’s far easier and more politically rewarding for a liberal to police speech than it is to address the hard facts crime and violence. Richmond “shutting down white privilege” in last week’s hearing did nothing to solve his city’s murder rate, which is starting to outpace Chicago’s notorious violence.

But at least he got a glowing video from Fusion out of it.

It is reassuring how Goodlatte and King handled Richmond’s outburst. Neither one gave any credence to their fellow lawmaker’s silly accusations of white privilege, and both stood up for the right to make a statistical comparison.

But the fierce exchange should put to pasture GOP hopes for a return to civility. Richmond exploited those yearnings in the wake of Steve Scalise’s shooting to shame his Republican colleagues for speech he found offensive. Obviously, the man with a long record of incivility made no pretense of being civil in his response, in spite of his bold claims he is incredibly respectful. (RELATED: Republicans Delude Themselves With Demands For More Civility)

It’s not quite the pinnacle of calm bipartisanship to insinuate you are going to go over and knock out a fellow congressman over a data point.

That very uncivil outburst netted Richmond applause from the Left and demonstrated his progressive bona fides. He would not have been rewarded if he had just quietly voiced that he didn’t like King’s argument.

After a week of listening to Democrats say their health care bill will kill thousands of innocent people and being lectured on the racism of statistical comparisons, Republicans need to realize their opponents are not going to make an effort to remain civil.

Liberals are always going to try to silence King and others for bringing up points they find politically incorrect. It’s up to figures like King to keep talking anyway.

Follow Scott on Twitter and purchase his new book, “No Campus for White Men.”