Steve King: Republican Congressman Causes Flap With Racially-Charged Remarks About White People

Iowa Republican Steve King is in damage-control mode after making racially-charged remarks on a Monday MSNBC appearance, ABC News is reporting.

King, one of the most conservative lawmakers in Washington and a harsh opponent of immigration, King was asked about the racial makeup of the attendees at the Republican National Convention. When asked why they were mostly white, an exasperated King had this to say.

“This whole white people business, though, does get a little tired. … I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

MSNBC host Chris Hayes was visibly taken aback. He asked King for clarification, and King backpedaled — just a bit.

“Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the Unites States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world.”

King seems to have conveniently forgotten some of the contributions to civilization that nonwhites have made. Here is a short list.

  • Civilization Itself: By most estimates, what we call “civilization” — that is, human beings domesticating animals, raising crops, trading and communicating with each other, and living in cities — is believed to have begun around 12,000 BCE in what we now call the Middle East. Europeans at the time were still living in caves or crude settlements. Europe didn’t get on board with civilization until several thousand years later.
  • Christianity: Jesus of Nazareth was not white, contrary to his depiction in most Western art. He was a Jew living in Roman Palestine, and probably looked roughly similar to modern Palestinians.
  • Arabic Numerals: The numbers we use today were developed in India (they earned the name “Arabic numerals” for reasons not relevant to this post), and were not fully embraced in Europe until around the 15th century. If Steve King believes the original European way of recording numbers (which is to say, Roman Numerals) is superior, he is free to try to multiply XXVIII by XV. (The answer is CDXX.)
  • Gunpowder: The chemical basis for modern warfare was invented in the 9th Century in China, and made its way to Europe a few centuries later. Prior to gunpowder, Europeans settled their differences with swords, spears, and bows and arrows. By the way, gunpowder is also the chemical basis for fireworks, so when Steve King celebrates America on the 4th of July, he’s doing so thanks to Chinese inventions.

Despite evidence to the contrary, King apparently believes that European/white culture (and by extension, American culture) are the way to go.

On Monday night, King was given another opportunity to clarify his remarks. Still, he stuck to his guns.

“The Western civilization and the American civilization are a superior culture.”

MSNBC writer Steve Benen notes that such remarks aren’t out of character for King, who, even though he’s from Iowa (a northern state), keeps a Confederate flag on his desk. Benen also regards King’s statements on race as a part of a larger race issue within the Republican Party.

“Just so we’re clear, the Republican Party has a demographic problem: in a country of increasing racial and ethnic diversity, the GOP relies overwhelmingly on older, white voters. Asked to reflect on his party’s challenge, Steve King told a national television audience that white people are awesome.”

Do you believe that Steve King’s remarks about race and civilization are correct?

[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]