The Racist Threshold

Sitting and watching the Steve King fiasco evolve over the last few days – I began to wonder about the threshold for calling out racists.  Rep. King is not new to racist rants – but yet this most recent quote seems to have triggered something new among Republicans. Let’s take a trip down memory lane through some of Steve’s greatest hits…

In 2013 while talking about undocumented child immigrants, he said, “For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

In 2015 King commented on Obama’s apology to Africa for slavery. He said, “We’re the vigor of the planet and there’s nothing for us to apologize for until they come and thank us for the things we’ve done.”

In 2016 King said, “This whole ‘white people’ business … 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?”

In March of 2017, King tweeted, “… culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

In August of 2018, King met with Unzensuriert. This publication is associated with Austria’s Freedom Party that was founded by a former Nazi SS officer. During the interview, he said, “What does this diversity bring that we don’t already have? Mexican food, Chinese food, those things — well, that’s fine. But what does it bring that we don’t have that is worth the price?”  He also endorsed a white nationalist candidate in Canada this same month.

It was only after this that instance that several Corporations (including Intel, Land O’Lakes and AT&T) pulled their support after a public outcry against continued support from someone who is clearly racist.  But the Republican Party still stood behind Rep King for years. What did it take for them to start pulling their support?

“white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

Only with this quote during a New York Times interview this past weekend did the Party start to pull away – most recently by stripping him of his committee assignments and even a call by some of his colleagues to resign.  

Progressives and those supporting tolerance have called out Steve King long before.  The Anti-Defamation League noted in early 2012 that he “has made a number of virulently anti-immigrant statements over the years.”

Through all of this King has stated that he has no intention of stepping down – and instead has gotten into a debate about sentence construction – suggesting that his words have been misconstrued.

From the standpoint of a Progressive Shopper – the story here is clear.  Companies respond to pressure. While it is unclear to me if (all of) these companies would have made the decision to stop supporting King on their own – with enough pressure and public shaming – most companies will eventually do the right thing.