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My Point of View: White supremacy sets back human achievement

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Rick Santorum recently said in a speech to young conservatives, “We birthed a nation from nothing. I mean, there was nothing here. I mean, yes, we have Native Americans but candidly there isn’t much Native American culture in American culture.”

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Living in a state that derived its name from the Dakota phrase “Mni Sota Makoce” (“Where the waters reflect the skies”), this is ridiculous on its face. Whether he’s revealing flabbergasting ignorance or embracing centuries of physical and cultural erasure of indigenous Americans, Santorum is flat earth wrong.

Last month several representatives in the U.S. House briefly floated a nativist “America First” caucus promoting “Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”

Anglo-Saxons lived in small kingdoms in England during the Middle Ages. I can’t think of a single American who aspires to recreate a feudal society like that. Life was often nasty, brutish and short, even with the protection of a king against terrifying raids by the Viking ancestors of many people around here, including myself.

Last month Tucker Carlson went full “White Replacement Theory” on his Fox News platform and expressed fear about new immigrant voters who “dilute” his vote and “disenfranchise” him. (Later in the month, Carlson also urged his viewers to call police on parents who send their children outside to play wearing masks, which he equated to child abuse. Unfortunately for him, these children will someday turn 18 and probably “dilute” his vote as well.)

Members of the Republican Party and other conservative figures are frequently cleaving to ignorance, espousing nativism and courting white supremacists. Where is the party of Lincoln or Reagan I grew up with?

I wrote earlier this year about the CPAC convention’s stage in Florida being designed in the exact shape of a Nazi symobol (an Odal rune), which I believe was a deliberate nod to white supremacists.

Two weeks ago, our state Rep. Peggy Bennett spoke in Blooming Prairie to a group called “Minnesotans4Freedom.” Patty Mueller, who represents Austin, shared pictures from the event on her Facebook page, Mueller for Minnesota. One of the organizers, Chad Rafdal, was a Capitol insurrectionist. According to Unicorn Riot, an independent media organization, Rafdal said he was pepper-sprayed and forced back by police near a Capitol entrance. On Twitter, the media outlet shared an earlier picture of Rafdal in front of the Minnesota governor’s mansion during a rally, and he and at least seven other people in the picture are making the “white power” hand sign.

Deron Slater, who spoke for more than half an hour at the Blooming Prairie event, claimed that Derek Chauvin, recently convicted by jury for the murder of George Floyd, was “on trial for being white.” Unicorn Riot reported that Slater was also in D.C. on Jan. 6, and it tweeted a picture of Slater with Jason Hakala at the Alibi Drinkery. Hakala, who was photographed in D.C. on Jan. 6 as well, has an arm slung around Slater and is making the “white power” sign with both of his hands.

Why is our local state representative accepting a speaking invitation from a group associated with open white supremacists and Capitol insurrectionists?

Former Republican standard bearer Mitt Romney was booed at the Utah GOP convention this past weekend. Liz Cheney, who has staunchly condemned Trump’s lies about election fraud which incited the Capitol insurrection, is facing challenges to her leadership position in the U.S. House.

I would have never imagined any of this happening while growing up in the 1980s. Does the Republican Party see a future for itself in a vibrant, diverse society?

Belief in white supremacy is like being mired in the idea that the sun orbits around the Earth. It has no basis in biology, and it sets back human achievement and destroys intrinsic worth.

White supremacy is also a threat to domestic tranquility. Like President Biden said in his address last week, “We won’t ignore what our intelligence agencies have determined to be the most lethal terrorist threat to our homeland today: White supremacy is terrorism.”

We learn from the mistakes of the past, and we move forward together. We value the pursuit of truth and knowledge, even if it means changing our minds, even if that is hard to do. We are Americans, and we are created equal and are equal before the law. We are committed to building a more perfect union.

There is only one major party, the Democrats, that carries this message right now. This is the party that embodies rural values. It rewards work instead of wealth, it supports working families and it opens the doors to education and innovation. It builds from the middle class out.

Trickle down economics don’t work and never did, especially for rural America. We sure tried it, and “there was nothing here.”

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.