Email #98, Subject: “restore our civilization”?

In 2013, Iowa Rep. Steve King claimed that children of illegal immigrants were often drug mules. Speaker Boehner condemned his remark, and, to your credit, you did too. You said: “It is inappropriate, it does not help the discussion, it’s not accurate, and there are ways to have a discussion about the legitimate policy issues without saying things that are unkind.”

Since King never corrected his statement or apologized for it, I am confused why you then appointed him to chair the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. I would question his appointment to chair any House Judiciary subcommittee, but given his remark—one you personally called inappropriate, inaccurate, and unkind—he seems self-evidently unfit to oversee Civil Justice.

King’s recent statements confirm that.

Last year while supporting the Trump campaign, King asked an interviewer “where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people … where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?” Western civilization, he said, is “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.” As you of course know, the statement is shockingly ignorant. (Western civilization, for example, relies on Arabic numerals for all of its mathematical and technological advances.)

Now over the weekend, Rep. King tweeted: “culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

This statement is not merely ignorant. It is not merely inappropriate, inaccurate, and unkind. It is the foundational belief of white supremacy. According to King, “our” civilization is the overwhelmingly white “culture and demographics” of the Iowa voters who elected him to Congress. According to King, “we” can’t restore ourselves–we can’t make America great again–if non-whites predominate.

Given these extraordinary remarks, I assume you will no longer allow Rep. King to serve as chair of your Civil Justice subcommittee. Even if King’s multiple statements were aberrations and misunderstandings, they create an overwhelming appearance of prejudice. Voters cannot trust him.

If you allow him to continue as chair, voters cannot trust you either. It was already disturbing that you appointed him Civil Justice chair despite your condemnation of his 2013 remarks. To continue that mistake in light of his now overtly racist agenda would subvert the core mission of the House Judiciary Committee.

Please set aside party politics and your personal relationship with the Congressman, and do the right thing.

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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