Iowa State Senator Julian Garrett wrote in a recent opinion piece that the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t care about black lives because they don’t focus on “black-on-black” crime, and offered up his suggestion of which “blacks” in society should be held up as “role models.”
The Indianola Republican published on Friday an op-ed titled ‘Black Homicide Victims’ in the Indianola Advocate where he highlighted recent crime statistics from Chicago, Baltimore and Des Moines, saying that “most black murder victims are killed by other blacks.” The Senator, who chairs Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee and is the Vice Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, then suggested that BLM ignores those crime cases.
“If you take their name [Black Lives Matter] literally, you would think that they would be concerned by the hundreds, if not thousands, of black people killed by other blacks. The truth is their goal is not primarily to protect black lives. If that was their goal they would be concentrating on black on black killings because that is where the numbers are,” wrote Garrett.
“Talking about blacks killed by other blacks does not advance their political agenda. It is that simple,” he continued. “If Mr. Floyd had been killed by a black, who was not a law enforcement officer, they would not have been interested.”
Advocates warn that when BLM opponents talk about “blacks killing blacks,” it is to deflect attention away from police brutality. The argument, which often resurfaces amid national cries for racial equity, is concerned more about the topic of homicide during a conversation about violence rendered by law enforcement.
“The statement is almost like a dog whistle. He’s saying things that are really giving insight into what he’s intending. Based on some of the things we’ve heard from [Garrett] at the Statehouse and in articles like this, it makes it hard for me to believe he’s done his research enough,” said Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo.
“Those of lower socioeconomic status commit crimes against those of lower socioeconomic status. Those who are of higher socioeconomic status typically commit crimes against those of higher socioeconomic status. So crime is not determined by race against race, it’s typically based on proximity between those in which you live,” said Smith. “To make [a statement on black-on-black crime] is ignorant unless he’s going to talk about the numbers that represent white people committing crimes against white people.”
Vicky Brenner, Garrett’s 2018 Democratic challenger for Senate District 13 in a tweet on Monday likened the Senator’s op-ed comments to U.S. Rep. Steve King’s historically racist ones.
This man is our Senate District 13’s version of Steve King. I regret every day I lost the election against him in 2018. https://t.co/XL6kHbdbrk
— Vicky Brenner (@Vicky4Iowa) June 30, 2020
“I was more than disappointed to see Senator Garrett’s article pop up on my media feed. At a time when leaders, especially males of white privilege, should be promoting decency, compassion and empathy, he chooses a path of ignorance and party-line rhetoric to stir up more division,” Brenner said in an interview with Iowa Starting Line.
“I grew up in Northwest Iowa, so I’ve heard enough of these kinds of comments from former Congressman Steve King and his kind. I said it when I campaigned against Senator Garrett in 2018 and I’ll say it now, ‘this is not who we are as Iowans.’”
Garrett, a farmer and attorney, has been at the Statehouse since 2013, serving in both the House and Senate. He was one of a few Republican Senators who voted no to an amendment that require felons to fully pay victim restitution before their voting rights would be reinstated. The legislation was also widely opposed by Democrats, who called the bill a “new poll tax,” with its restrictions — Garrett opposed the amendment because he felt it wasn’t strict enough.
The Senator’s op-ed ended by condemning destructive or violent protesters, applauding the “many blacks who are not extremists.”
“Another significant point is their defending of the destruction of property, looting and violence against police that has taken place at some of their events, even in Des Moines,” Garrett wrote.
“It is unfortunate that extremists are the ones who get the publicity. The many blacks who are not extremists are almost ignored. Why not talk about the many blacks who are doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, businessmen and women, religious leaders and may others. They should be the role models who are celebrated.”
by Isabella Murray
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