Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana introduced a new legislative tactic this week, while sparring with Rep. Steve King on the House floor over immigration: accusing your opponent of “white privilege.”
According to Richmond, citing data that he doesn’t like is “offensive” and an example of Rep. King using his “white privilege” to intimidate his colleagues.
King was speaking about the drug war in El Salvador, and cited the country’s sky-high homicide rate—more than 90 people killed per 100,000 El Salvadoran citizens. Arguing that that wasn’t an excuse for letting El Salvadorans cross the border into the United States, King pointed out that some cities in the U.S. experience similar crime rates, including New Orleans, in the year after Hurricane Katrina.
Richmond, who is black, took exception to King’s characterization of his constituency (he represents one of several New Orleans districts) and chastised King for his lack of “civility.” When told that King had a right to make the statistical comparisons, because they were generally accurate, Richmond launched into a protracted rant on bipartisanship.
“It’s not appropriate. It’s insensitive. And it’s nothing more than traditional white privilege of ‘let me criticize a minority city,’” Richmond declared to the floor. “Now take it how you want. I’m telling you how I feel.”
Of course, Rep. King is hardly an uncontroversial member of the House. He’s an immigration hardliner, and his arguments in defense of closed borders are often extreme.
But Richmond said nothing about King’s accuracy, just that he was insulted by the mere comparison.
Citing facts and data that someone else doesn’t like is hardly “white privilege.” Statistics themselves can’t be racist.
The outburst did earn Richmond some love from left-leaning media outlets. Fusion proclaimed that Richmond “shut King down” with his accusations, and social media applauded Richmond’s big moment.
Perhaps even weirder, Richmond announced, before calling King racist, that he was the grand champion of both bipartisanship and civility. Richmond was forced to apologize back in March after he made what he called an “awkward” joke about Kellyanne Conway, telling her she looked “kind of familiar in that position” after she appeared in a White House photograph, kneeling barefoot on an Oval Office couch.