While several female representatives, many women of color, delivered heartfelt speeches last week to block the bill before the Minnesota House to increase penalties after Black Lives Matter protesters blocked interstates in outrage over the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, a group of white Republican men played cards in another room. Minnesota House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman admonished the apathetic group during roll call, saying, "I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate."
Rather than show contrition for their lack of interest in a bill that affects their constituents' civil rights, the men doubled down with a protest letter and a demand that Hortman apologize for calling them out for playing cards while women like Rep. Erin Maye Quade spoke eloquently about her father, a black man who grew up in Alabama and participated in the life-altering civil rights protests in the 1960s.
In lieu of recognizing their insensitivity, the men who played cards while women spoke of First Amendment rights drafted a letter whining about how Hortman made them feel.
"Minority Leader Hortman's statements needlessly invoked the race and gender of her colleagues, and called into question the motives of members during a lengthy floor debate," the representatives wrote. Saying it's a violation of the legislature's rules to criticize the personalities of fellow representatives, they continued, "We implore Minority Leader Hortman to apologize for her actions and strive to repair the damage she has caused to the collaborative work environment of the Minnesota House of Representatives."
The put-upon white men of the Minnesota House missed the irony in their calling Hortman racist while their entitlement allowed them to sit out an important discussion about civil disobedience that could potentially bring to light the plight of marginalized people of various races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, etc,
"The identity and gender of the people who were speaking was relevant, and the identity and gender of the people who weren't listening is relevant," Hortman said in a press conference.
"What they were talking about is how often communities of color are ignored, and they only way they can get the attention of the power structure and cause social change, is to protest," Hortman noted. "It just seemed ironic that the power structure that is in the Minnesota House of Representatives was off the floor and not listening to them."
While the men attempted to gaslight the people of Minnesota into thinking they were the victims for failing to do the job they were elected to do, Hortman held her ground when Rep. Bob Dettmer asked her directly to apologize to the body.
"I have no intention of apologizing," she responded. "I am so tired of watching Rep. Susan Allen give an amazing speech, Rep. Peggy Flanagan give an amazing speech, watching Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn give an amazing speech, Rep. Rena Moran give the most heartfelt, incredible speech I've heard on this House floor, as long as I can remember, watching Rep. Ilhan Omar give an amazing speech ... and looking around, to see, where are my colleagues?"
Still, Dettmer was full of tone-deaf declarations positing him and his white male colleagues as victims. Regarding Hortman's invoking their race and gender, he said, "All I know is if I would've made a comment like that, it probably would have made the front page of the newspapers."
But Hortman did not yield to the protestations of the white men who can afford to play cards while the lives of marginalized people are debated.
"I am tired of watching women of color, in particular, being ignored, so I'm not sorry," she said.
Watch Hortman respond to Dettmer below.