On July 18, at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, Representative Steve King from Iowa told Esquire writer Charles Pierce and MSNBC host Chris Hayes, "This 'old white people' business does get a little tired, Charlie. 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?"
Later that night, in the exact same building, Melania Trump spoke to the convention in what was to be the highlight of the night, using a speech that contained phrases identical to that of first African American First Lady Michelle Obama's address to the Democratic National Convention in 2008. According to Professor Patrick Juola of Duquesne University, the odds of this being complete coincidence are about one in 5 septillion.
I guess Ms. Trump is just lucky.
I'm afraid it seems the irony of this whole situation is lost on the likes of people like Representative King. So here's the definitive list of all the contributions made to civilization by non-white people:
Unfortunately for Representative King, it is impossible to quantify and compare the contributions of non-white people to civilization to those of white people. Just deciding what exactly the words "contribution," "civilization," and "white" mean in this context would be a challenge in itself. But while mainstream media freaked out over what seemed like a blatant display of ignorance, if not straight up racism, I and many other people of color remained unsurprised.
Of course he thinks this way. How could he not think this way?
The reality is that debating who contributed more to civilization ultimately solves nothing. However, American history and the history of the West in general is full of examples of taking things from people of color and claiming them for their own, whether it be technological achievements like gunpowder from China or cultural developments like rock and roll from African American blues and jazz. And I'm sure that the cycle will continue as those in power continue to pick and choose what they like from various subcultures and minority groups while the reverse remains impossible. But to then go around and suggest that those groups have contributed nothing, despite their continued denial as valid creators, is simply outrageous.
What Representative King said on Monday was simply the verbalization of an essential part of the American mindset. And just like everything else, it can't and won't change until we talk about it openly. Until we feel able to have an honest discussion about the origins of some of the things we hold most dear, people will simply continue to believe that White, Christian, Western society is inherently superior to everything else.