One Minnesota House representative was not having it.
Rep. Melissa Hortman held a handful of her Republican colleagues to task for skipping out on a debate to play cards in the chamber’s “retiring room.”
Black female representatives were speaking at the time, attempting to block a toxic bill that would drastically increase penalties for protesters for civil disobedience. The bill is just one of many across the country that are part of an ongoing Republican effort to stifle dissent. In Minnesota, politicians brought the bill forward after the murder of Philando Castile, one of the highest profile police shootings in recent years.
While the representatives were giving impassioned speeches against the anti-free speech measure, a group of white male Republicans hunkered down in the retiring room to play cards.
Rep. Hortman approached the group and remarked: “I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate.”
Republicans have since expressed outrage, with dozens signing a protest and dissent against Hortman’s comments and many calling her “racist.” One lawmaker called on her to resign. Another told the press that “what happens in the retiring room is nobody’s business.”
While Hortman has largely stood by her words, she has expressed some remorse:
I have some work to do because the way in which I tried to get my colleagues to listen to some of my other colleagues have in some ways made the gulf deeper.
Nonetheless, according to Democratic lawmakers in the state, white male Republicans deliberately shirk speeches and debates preferred by black women. Considering that this occurred while black lawmakers were discussing an anti-protest bill that explicitly targets Black Lives Matter, it’s easy to understand the frustration with out-of-touch conservatives unwilling to listen to dissenting opinions.
What Hortman said isn’t “racist.” Police violence and trampling black people’s right to protest, however, is.