Democrat State Rep. Ras Smith announced his plans to run for Governor of Iowa on Tuesday. There will be many obstacles along the way, but one of the biggest will be squaring his support of the radical Black Lives Matter movement and the 1619 Project.
While those issues likely help Smith in a Democrat primary, they will certainly hinder his ability to attract voters in a general election.
The Des Moines Black Lives Matter group has had multiple physical altercations with police leading to arrests. They just forced a Des Moines City Council meeting to shut down on Monday evening.
Yet Smith has been front and center with the group, celebrating with them last summer at the Capitol.
The 1619 Project, which was produced by Nikole Hannah Jones who disparaged the state of Iowa in her presentation at Drake University recently, was defended by Smith.
Smith, who told CNN he considers himself a “moderate,” sat on the subcommittee for a bill that would ban The 1619 Project from being taught as history curriculum in Iowa.
“That was one of the hardest things I’ve had to sit through in my time in the legislature,” he said. “I found a lot of the narrative to be fairly disrespectful. One of the comments said that the Democrat Party was the party of slavemasters, right. So I pushed back against that narrative because that’s disrespectful. It’s interesting because if you knew who I was you would know how, how unrighteously false that was.”
Smith said The 1619 Project is a series of essays meant to help students be “critical thinkers.”
“If our students are unable to really talk about what’s taken place, or understand the lineage or ancestry of people that look like me, then we’re in a difficult place and maybe repeat history and I’m nervous about the trend that we’re seeing across this country,” Smith said.
It was also Smith who alleged that Iowa’s Stand Your Ground legislation in 2017 would incite some sort of race war.
Smith spoke on the floor of the Iowa House on the Stand Your Ground bill. Smith said all Iowans are not treated equally or protected equally. Smith said that while playing football in Iowa he was not treated equally.
“I was called racial slurs more than 10 times, spit in my face and told ‘If I could kill you and get away with it, I would do that,'” Smith said. “I don’t believe that’s being treated equally.”
Smith said the idea that you can be wrong in your estimation of a threat, but as long as there is good reason, is “terrifying for some of us.”
“But only a few of us in this chamber or in this body and that’s because of our natural burden — the assumption or perception that I’m a threat based on the color of my skin,” he said. “I firmly believe that I will be outcasted if I treated every white male that I interact with as a threat. Which could be reasonable based on my prior experiences.”
Smith said there are racial discrepancies that exist in the application of Stand Your Ground laws.
“The impact of this legislation on people who look like me but may not dress like I do when I’m here Monday through Thursday will be an increased risk to them being killed,” he said.
He speculated that individuals who burnt crosses in Dubuque would see Stand Your Ground as a “get-out-of-jail” free card.
“If this legislation passes, I encourage minorities who dress like I do when I’m not here,” he stopped at then put on a hoodie. “Because this is what Rep. Smith looks like when he’s not in a suit and tie, with his tattoos on and his earrings, this is what I look like. So is that threat that you can perceive every day. So maybe I should teach those young men to practice the mantra of hands up, don’t shoot.”