Politics

Analysis: This GOP governor’s stirring comments on racism

“We’re also facing another kind of virus that’s equally voracious, and it’s in turn forcing us to a reckoning as a state and nation — one that’s built on ‘equality for all.’ I’m talking about cases of racism — sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle — that have led to inequity and exclusion, that have plagued our country throughout our storied history.”
No, that’s not a line from Kamala Harris’ DNC acceptance speech.
It’s Indiana’s Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb.
“We now stand at an inflection point, and we have an opportunity to acknowledge those past wrongs, learn from our history and admit where we’ve come up short of our ideals.
“And yet, it’s just a fact, the concept [that all men were created equal] wasn’t put into practice even before the ink was dry. Quite the contrary. Laws were established that classified African Americans as ‘property’ and prevented women from voting. There’s nothing equal about that.”
Holcomb delivered this address this week, as he announced a slate of new measures to work toward racial equity — all made in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Holcomb’s proposals include equipping all frontline state troopers with body cameras by next spring, creating a public dashboard with racial disparity data and adding a new Cabinet post called the chief equity, inclusion and opportunity officer.
In May, one person died and two were injured in Indianapolis after gunfire broke out amid unrest during one of the demonstrations.
Holcomb continued: “The coronavirus has underscored stubborn racial disparities that are still with us, fueled by decades of unequal opportunity and structural barriers like job discrimination and access to good educations and health care.
“And it’s in this environment that we’ve seen a number of unarmed Black men and women killed, culminating in an officer kneeling on the neck of Mr. George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until his last breath was snuffed out.
“I admit, I can’t put myself in a Black person’s shoes, can’t fully appreciate the everyday indignities and slights our friends and associates have had to deal with, let alone the fear of some things I’ve never had to think about.”
It’s important to remember the political context. Holcomb is up for reelection this November. His Democratic challenger is Dr. Woody Myers — the first Black major party candidate for governor in the state’s history. Yet the Indiana governor’s office is reliably red, and the race isn’t particularly close.
But even in a vacuum, it’s remarkable to hear this kind of language from a not-so-outspoken Republican governor. Even more so when you consider who held this job before Holcomb: Mike Pence.
“Indiana’s Republican governor stood up in front of his red state and drew a straight line from slavery to COVID-19 disparities,” tweeted Indy Star metro columnist James Briggs. “If you don’t think that counts as progress, try to imagine Mike Pence giving that speech.”
The Point: Indiana’s governor made a revelatory speech on racism and the Black American experience this week. It’s worth your time.