Melissa Hortman, a Minnesota lawmaker, isn’t apologizing for calling out her “white male" colleagues who have been ignoring speeches by women of color.
On Monday, Minnesota state Rep. Ilhan Omar -- who made history this past November when she became the first Somali-American lawmaker in the U.S. -- delivered a speech opposing a public safety bill that would increase penalties on protesters; she suggested it would have inhibited historic civil rights demonstrations like Dr. Martin Luther King’s.
Hortman (D), the state’s House Democratic party leader, noticed that many of her colleagues were absent when the speech was made -- and she’d observed a similar pattern when other women had spoken out against this bill. "I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate,” she said, according to The Huffington Post.
Apparently, Hortman’s words struck a nerve with some of the white men in the chamber. Republican Rep. Bob Dettmer reportedly said, "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.”
“Minority leader,” he continued, addressing Hortman directly, “would you apologize to the body?”
Hortman stood her ground and told him she wouldn’t apologize. “I’m really tired of watching women of color, in particular, being ignored. So, I’m not sorry,” she responded, according to The Huffington Post.
She went on to explain that this wasn’t the first time she’d witnessed her female colleagues be largely ignored. “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?”
State Rep. Greg Davids (R) did not think this was cool; in fact, he’s so pissed that he’s suggested that Hortman resign, according to the Post-Bulletin, which quotes him saying, "I was greatly offended by Hortman's racist statement about white males. I believe her comments have created a very hostile working environment.”
We’re glad Hortman didn’t back down -- and we certainly hope she’s merely scoffing at the suggestion that she resign because she had the basic human decency to advocate for women who weren’t getting the respect they reserve.
It’s no secret that the world of politics is largely a boys’ club, but we hope to see more and more women like Hortman who aren’t afraid to challenge that mentality and culture.
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