During an interview with CNN, Congresswoman Barbara Lee condemned the remarks recently made by presidential candidate Nikki Haley, saying that America ‘is not racist and has never been.” In a Fox News interview, host Brian Kilmeade questioned Haley about her affiliation with a “racist party.”
Haley replied, stating, “We’re not a racist country, Brian. We’ve never been a racist country—our goal is to make sure that today is better than yesterday. Are we perfect? No. But our goal is to always make sure we try and be more perfect every day that we can. I know I faced racism when I was growing up. But I can tell you, today is a lot better than it was then.”
Lee responded to this claim saying, “Racism, institutional racism, is in the DNA of this country. When you look at what has taken place, look at our Native Americans, the genocide of Native Americans. When you look at what has taken place as it relates to African Americans, 250 years plus of enslaving African Americans, and then you look at the disparities now in our community in terms of healthcare, unemployment, the wealth gap, and housing. You can’t tell me that systemic racism does not exist. It’s not just a little kink.”
Lee also referenced additional remarks made by Haley during a town hall in New Hampshire. The former UN ambassador asserted that America is no longer a racist country. However, when discussing the causes of the Civil War, she omitted any mention of slavery.
When faced with the question of the impact of slavery in this country, Haley replied, “What do you want me to say about slavery? It was about the freedoms of what people could and couldn’t do.”
Lee, who is currently vying for a seat in the Senate to represent California, called Haley’s words “very dangerous and clueless.”
The congresswoman went on to recount a racist incident from her time in Congress, detailing an encounter where a white male prevented her from entering a “members only” elevator before a vote. During the incident, he falsely accused her of stealing her Congressional designation pin.
“He blocked me from getting into the elevator and told me I was not a member of Congress and it was for members only,” Lee said.“I said, ‘Sir, I’m a member of Congress.’ And I showed him my pin, and he said, ‘Whose pin did you steal?’This is an example of what personal racism is and how people of color constantly have to deal with this each and every day.”
Lee is a candidate running for the Senate seat left vacant by the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a position currently held by Sen. Laphonza Butler (D). In the race, Lee is competing against two fellow Democrats, namely Representatives Adam Schiff (Calif.) and Katie Porter (Calif.).