This following is a letter written by Tracy Olson in response to a comment made by Rep. Mike Simpson’s communication director Nikki Wallace on March 15, 2017 at Mr. Simpson’s Boise office.
During the meeting with Ms. Wallace and Boise Indivisible members Tracey, Nancy, Kristiana, Rutty and Lynn, comments were made that needed “to be called out” said Tracey. The letter below is unedited and in its entirety. It clearly makes the case that addressing racism like that embodied by Iowa Rep. Steve King in his tweet (see below) in all its forms seems to stop at the doors of some of the people’s public servants!
Racism must not be condoned through a lack of response or simply given lip service when it happens. Since the now infamous @SteveKingIA tweet, Rep. King has doubled down time and time again.
Dear Ms. Wallace,
Thank you for taking the time to meet with us yesterday. It was great to be able to share our personal stories about our healthcare experiences and to give you some of our written concerns about the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. We look forward to meeting with you again in the future.
One comment you made however, on a different topic, stuck with us all day. The comment was made in reference to Nancy’s concern about Rep. Steve King’s tweet. You did not refute or denounce Rep. King’s comment as being inappropriate. Instead your first comment was to point out that Eric Holder was a Black Panther. The implication, at least to us in the group was that Mr. Holder being a Black Panther was the same as Steve King being a white supremacist. This is bothersome on several levels. According to my research, your assertion is not true. Eric Holder was never a member of the Black Panthers. It was reported that he was a member of the Student Afro-American Society (SAAS) when he attended Columbia University. SAAS was implicated in several student demonstrations at the University in the 1960s; some where students were armed. There is no valid news reports that I could locate that reported Eric Holder participating in these armed protests nor was a verified member of the Black Panthers. If you have a valid source for your comment, we ask that you share that with us.
The second concern with your statement is the implication that the Black Panthers are on the same level as White Supremacy. We find this incredibly disturbing. Black Panthers, as a group, formed out of frustration and anger at African Americans being suppressed by white people throughout their history in the United States. It was first and foremost a liberation movement albeit a complex one. This group wanted equality in education, housing, employment and civil rights. The Black Panthers were militant in its ways, actively promoting and committing violence against the police. But it also did many good things for the community by establishing health clinics, food programs, youth programs, women empowerment movements, and created opportunities for jobs and housing. Don’t misunderstand, we do not condone violence. However, we can certainly understand why this group resorted to it. The fight for equality that erupted in the 1960’s thru peaceful and violent means came after years and years of suppression, segregation, injustice, inequality and discrimination.
White supremacy on the other hand is about hate – hatred of groups or individuals that are viewed to be inferior to themselves. It is not about achieving equality. It is about suppressing or deterring equality on all levels. White Supremacists were and continue to be the suppressors of all minority groups, but especially people of brown or black skin tone. Whites in this country are blessed with privilege (just by being born white) and have never suffered from racial bias, discrimination or injustices on the same level or intensity as African Americans have. Whites historically have been the perpetrator of discrimination, not the victim.
The rise of White Supremacy since the election is alarming. Rhetoric that was once considered completely unacceptable is now being validated by this administration. People such as Steve King, Richard Spencer, Steve Bannon, Steve Miller and the like are feeling empowered and bold. This language, this hateful and divisive language must be condemned by members of Congress. We’d like to hear Representative Simpson condemn Representative King’s use of this language and not dismiss it as a mistake or an error of judgement. When called out by reporters, Rep. King refused to apologize and defended his remarks. We would like to hear Rep. Simpson support his removal from any committees he serves on. It would be equally important to hear Representative Labrador, Senator Risch and Senator Crapo condemn such disturbing language. We would love to hear our elected officials speak to the fact that we are all human beings who may look different but want the same things and deserve to achieve it. We all deserve to live and love freely, free from harm, from hate, from violence. Instead our elected officials appear either unwilling or unable to act in such a decent way. The acts of civility, bravery and decency by members of Congress, acts that were once common place have disappeared, replaced by silence.
Silence equals complicity. And complicity, to us, is just plain unacceptable. There are times to speak up. There are times for action. This is one of those times.
on behalf of Nancy Rice, Kristina Priest, Kristiana Rutty