Republican Rep. Jeff Shipley spoke on the floor of the Iowa House on Tuesday night in support of a bill to essentially keep Critical Race Theory out of Iowa schools and government-sponsored diversity trainings.
Shipley, in his remarks, provided some much-needed perspective when it comes to discussion on Critical Race Theory.
He acknowledged that it is a “tremendous privilege” to have been born in America and that the country has a lot of systematic challenges despite the blessing of liberty.
“So they systematic challenges are real, that life is very unfair, the world can be a very cruel and unforgiving place and there is a lot of suffering, a lot of unimaginable suffering, a lot of unnecessary suffering that as a body we still need to work to address,” Shipley said.
He then talked about the idea of white privilege.
“I do believe the term white privilege is racist on its face,” he said. “I believe when the term white privilege is used that does judge me based on the color of my skin just as Dr. Martin Luther King advised people not to do. It is a term that I think is just very incompletely and woefully inadequate to accurately describe what we’re seeing in society.”
Shipley said there are factors deeper than his skin that led him to be in the Iowa House.
“The thing that comes to mind is really the privilege that I had of having a loving father,” he said. “A mother and father in the same household that loved each other, that had devotion and loved their kids unconditionally.”
His father did many things to help Shipley further himself throughout life.
“I don’t know if my privilege is so much a function of my white skin tone as much as it is just having a loving father,” he said. “This is very interesting because, statistically speaking, members of the minority communities – the black and African American communities – are less likely to have the presence of a father in the household. And that’s not a privilege that’s really being adequately explored in my opinion.”
Shipley mentioned the meeting between Kanye West and President Donald J. Trump. He discussed West’s ideas that federal government may be contributing to the lack of fathers in the home.
“He was called mentally ill,” Shipley said. “He was called an Uncle Tom. He was called the worse names imaginable for even having the conversation.”
Shipley noted there is IQ privilege, geographic privilege, etc.
“So there are a lot of privileges that we need to explore and these are very important conversations that we need to have,” he said.
After acknowledging the need for conversations, Shipley said it is important to examine what stifles that communication.
“What stifles communication is blanket accusations of racism,” he said. “You know, when someone says you’re a white person, so I know you’re a racist, and by denying it you’re proving that you’re racist – very difficult to have a conversation with that person. Very difficult to have a conversation when there are large groups of people threatening violence, which is something we’ve seen.”
Ideas have consequences, Shipley said.
“We saw this last summer when, at the Capitol, Black Lives Matter rioters came here,” he said. “I had wanted to communicate with them. I wanted to talk. I wanted to understand their anger. I wanted to empathize with their concerns. It was very difficult because, as I stood there, I smiled and that was offensive. They didn’t want to see me smiling.
“I said I’m smiling because I want to offer friendship and a big old white guy said I don’t want your friendship, I want to body slam you. It makes it very difficult to have a conversation when that’s the type of rhetoric that activists are using. And again, you know, this is a white guy. He’s very privileged, big old belly full of privilege this guy had, and he’s threatening violence on legislators.”
Ironically, Shipley said he had taken a lot of leadership on the criminal justice issues the individuals were asking for.
“I guess I was naïve,” he said. “I thought because I’d already taken legislative action to address things that they were concerned about that I was on their side and we could have a collaborative discussion on how to advance these ideas forward. But that was not the case because they were interested in violence.”
He talked with others and asked if they had read Letters From a Birmingham Jail, but they had not.
“They knew a lot about white privilege, they knew that I was a racist, but they had absolutely no idea on Letters From a Birmingham Jail and what Martin Luther King had specifically laid out in how to correct these injustices,” he said. “The playbook has already been written. It was just so frustrating to me because these children who think they know everything and they’re speaking very violently, but they haven’t even stopped to read a book. In that atmosphere, it’s extremely difficult to have these conversations.”