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Douglas Andrews / March 25, 2021

A Racist Senator Outs Herself

Tammy Duckworth didn’t think “the most diverse cabinet in history” was quite diverse enough.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the times, but we’ve come to expect our elected representatives to disgrace themselves on occasion. After all, a gang of 435 is bound to have its Anthony Weiners, its Katie Hills, its Tim Murphys, its Adam Schiffs, and its Eric Swalwells. But less so our senators. They’re supposed to be cut from better cloth. At least in theory. That’s clearly not the case, though, with Thailand’s own Tammy Duckworth, whose racism and bigotry were on full display this week.

As the New York Post reports, “Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth said Tuesday that she will oppose most of President Biden’s nominees in protest of his lack of Asian-American cabinet picks. … ‘There’s no AAPI representation in the cabinet. There’s not a single AAPI in a cabinet position. That’s unacceptable,’ Duckworth told reporters at the Capitol, using a term for Asian-Americans and Pacific islanders. ‘President Biden will be the first president in 20 years without a cabinet secretary who is AAPI.’”

Told of Duckworth’s protest, Biden shot back: “We have the most diverse cabinet in history. We have a lot of Asian Americans that are in the cabinet and in sub-cabinet levels.”

But what really set Duckworth off had happened the night before. That’s when Biden’s 2020 campaign manager, Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, made what Duckworth called an “incredibly insulting” remark on a webcast with fellow Democrats. Essentially, Dillon reminded the race-counting Duckworth that President-in-Waiting Kamala Harris is biracial and suggested that she should be happy with a veep whose mother was born in India and whose father was born in Jamaica.

Kamala’s worth a triple word score! we can imagine Dillon saying.

Duckworth, though, was indignant: “To be told that, ‘Well, you have Kamala Harris, we’re very proud of her, you don’t need anybody else’ is insulting. … Last night, that was the trigger for me. … Multiple times I’ve heard that. And that’s not something you would say to the black caucus, ‘Well, you have Kamala, we’re not going to put any more African-Americans in the cabinet because you have Kamala.’”

The trouble with diversity, of course, is that once it’s introduced, it tends to eat its own. How long, for example, before a pressure group of Greenland natives begin denouncing the Biden administration for its abject lack of Inuit representation?

“I’ve been talking to them for months,” Duckworth said. “And they’ve still not addressed it, so I am not going to be voting for any nominee from the White House other than diversity nominees — probably a ‘no’ on every one until they figure this out.” Asked to clarify who she would support as a “diversity” candidate, she said, “I will vote for racial minorities and I will vote for LGBTQ, but anybody else I’m not voting for.”

Whew. For a moment there, we thought she’d forgotten the LGBTQ community.

By late Tuesday, though, Duckworth had backed down. Perhaps it was the criticism from people of color that helped her realize anti-white racism is still racism and anti-heterosexual bigotry is still bigotry.

Take the tweet of one Patrice Lee Onwuka: “This is disgusting,” she said. “I am a black woman and I don’t believe that senators should approve or deny cabinet nominees based on their skin color. That is not progress but racism.”

As Fox News reports, “Ben Garmisa, her spokesman, said in a statement obtained by Fox News that Duckworth ‘appreciates’ the Biden administration’s ‘assurances that it will do much more to elevate AAPI voices and perspectives at the highest levels of government, including appointing an AAPI senior White House official to represent the community, secure the confirmation of AAPI appointments and advance policy proposals that are relevant and important to the community.’”

Better late than never, we suppose.

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