(Washington Post) -- After years of making racist statements and promoting racist policies, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) may finally have gone too far. In a recent interview, he told the New York Times, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” King’s GOP colleagues have stripped him of his committee assignments, and he faces possible censure. In response, the congressman claims that he was misrepresented — that his fellow Republicans and other observers did not understand his syntax. In a statement, he said he was not defending white supremacy or white nationalism but only “Western Civilization” from those who say the term has become “offensive.”
Given that King has frequently used “Western civilization” as a shorthand for whiteness, his defense is hardly credible, but the attempt is revealing. The term has been used to justify racism since it was coined. When King says, “No one ever sat in a class listening to the merits of white nationalism and white supremacy,” he’s conveniently overlooking this fact — and relying on the similar reluctance of many academics to acknowledge it. That needs to change.