Historian reacts to that weird thing Rep. Steve King said about whites and ‘subgroups’
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) speaks during an Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition banquet in Des Moines in November 2013. (Justin Hayworth/AP)
A historian has a lesson for Rep. Steve King.
King, a Republican from Iowa, was on an MSNBC panel Monday night talking about the Republican presidential convention. Here, according to this story by my colleague Philip Bump, is how part of the conversation went:
The group, led by Chris Hayes, was discussing the first day of the Republican national convention and Donald Trump’s history of racially loaded comments and behavior. King told Hayes that he thought Trump had “modified” his behavior in that regard, but Esquire’s Charlie Pierce said he didn’t see much diversity reflected in the gathering itself.
“If you’re really optimistic, you can say that this is the last time that old white people will command the Republican Party’s attention, its platform, its public face,” Pierce said. “That hall is wired,” he continued. “That hall is wired by loud, unhappy, dissatisfied white people.”
“This ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie,” King said. “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’re talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”
“Than white people?” Hayes asked, clearly amazed.
“Than, than Western civilization itself,” King replied. “It’s rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That’s all of Western civilization.”
Here’s a response from one renowned historian:
Answer Sheet newsletter
Education questions and answers, in your inbox weekly.
Charles S. MaierLeverett Saltonstall Professor of History Harvard University
The appropriate reaction to Congressman King is not to engage in a competitive tally of the achievements of Western civilization vs. the contributions of other cultures. Keeping that sort of score has little to do with the issue of whether the GOP is open or closed to the contemporary pluralism of American society. Of