Rep. Steve Holt (R-Denison) took the floor late Thursday night after every Democrat voted against a bill defining antisemitism in the Iowa Code. Much of their resistance, which didn’t show up until floor debate after Democrats unanimously supported the bill in subcommittee and committee, was based on race, diversity, privilege and being woke.
“I truly mean these from a perspective of unity. But we were talking about reference points tonight and you are absolutely right Rep. Abdul-Samad, I cannot walk in your shoes, but you also don’t walk in mine.
“So, I want to talk about some of my reference points and some of my frustrations as I’ve sat here listening tonight. Because what I have taken from my reference points is that I cannot empathize based upon I think what Rep. Gaines said, I cannot empathize with what’s going on because my skin color is wrong. From my perspective, from my reference point, that’s a racist statement. While I don’t remotely pretend to have experienced any kind of discrimination like someone of a minority has experienced, I can certainly say that I can empathize.
“I don’t have to accept a certain lifestyle to empathize with a certain group of people. I don’t think I have to be a certain color to empathize with discrimination. And, while I have not in my lifetime experienced discrimination anything like what a minority has experienced, I have experienced discrimination.
“As a Marine and an American in Japan, I experienced discrimination because I was an American and because I was not Japenese and it was strong.
“Because I was a United States Marine in San Diego in the 1980s, I went to rent an apartment and I wasn’t allowed to rent it because I was in the military and they didn’t rent to the military. That was shocking to me, but that was experienced by me.
“I can empathize with discrimination and how that feels a little bit, because a few years ago when we were running the sanctuary city bill, my daughter came home crying from school because my, at that time 12-year-old daughter was called a racist because her daddy was a Republican running a sanctuary city bill. I had a 16-year-old daughter who came home from school and showed me a text crying because the text said how does it feel to have been adopted by racist parents because I was a Republican running a sanctuary city bill. And I have four adopted girls and they experienced a lot of hurtful things during that period. So, those are my reference points. I believe that I can empathize with a group of people.
“Rep. Abdul-Samad, I know that you empathize with Jewish people, but you’re not Jewish. But I know from listening to your comments that you care about their feelings and you care about what happens to them. That’s the point I’m trying to make here.”
“I will just mention something about a privileged point of view, Rep. (Amy) Nielsen. You don’t know me. You don’t know what I grew up in. But you’re saying that I come from a privileged point of view. I don’t know if that’s because I’m white, but my father was an alcoholic when I was growing up. We moved around six or eight times while I was growing up and I had a pretty difficult life at the beginning. And the first years of my life in the Marine Corps I lived in a little mobile home trailer that the floor was rotting out of. I think I empathize more with folks that don’t make a lot of money than I do with folks that are wealthy.
“So, you know, I do not believe that I come from a privileged point of view. We all have different reference points, that is very true, and all of our reference points matter. And yes, I believe that I can empathize with lots of people and I don’t have to be a particular skin color and I don’t have to be a particular religion and I don’t have to be a particular economic level in order to empathize with people. Those are my reference points.”