Friday, June 12, 2020

WISGOP Lawmaker Shrugs Off Aide's Ignorant Comments On The KKK And Black Lives Matter

Rep. Janel Brandtjen dismissed her aide's ignorance as a mere Facebook squabble.

On Thursday, I posted an article decrying Assembly Speaker Robin Vos for saying COVID-19 was more rampant in one of the counties he represents because, in his words, it had more of an "immigrant culture." The blatantly racist statement by Vos is not, however, the only one made within the Republican Party of Wisconsin this week.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that an aide to Republican Rep. Janel Brandtjen named Bill Savage was engaged in a Facebook debate with a church leader from Milwaukee by the name of Marty Calderon.

Calderon said that the Ku Klux Klan ought to be labeled a terrorist organization. Given its history of violent harassment, and yes, killing people of color in the United States, it's hard to understand why Savage decided to become a KKK apologist in that discussion. But lo and behold, that's exactly what he did.

Savage responded that he "wasn't even aware that they existed." In an email to the Journal Sentinel, he tried to clear things up: what he meant by that was statement, he tried to assure everyone, was that he didn't realize the KKK was in existence "in any significant way" today. 

That point was not made during the back-and-forth between him and Calderon.

"I haven’t heard about anything about them Being involved in any of these issues," Savage went on in the Facebook dialogue, "unlike black lives matter that kill police officers."

And there's the second problem with what Savage wrote: there's actually scant evidence that the movement for Black Lives has been involved in any killings whatsoever. Usually when right-wing ideologues say as much, what they mean is that a Black person may have killed someone, and they decide it links somehow to the organization in what's usually a convoluted way.

Conversely, the KKK is still very much around, and still behaving violently. Just last week, a man who rammed his vehicle into a crowd of protesters in Virginia admitted to police he was a leader of his KKK chapter. The Ku Klux Klan is also still burning crosses in front of churches and Black people's homes as part of an intimidation campaign. And the Klan had a presence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

The KKK isn't the organization it once was, to be sure, but its hate-mongering and violent tendencies come about every now and then. In short, to put things the way that Savage did — and to somehow compare it to Black Lives Matter — is wrong in the most abhorrent way possible.

What did Savage's boss, Brandtjen do about these statements of his, when they came to light? Not much, according to Calderon, who contacted her directly in order to address them.

"The conversation I had with the representative was garbage. All she kept falling back on was he has the First Amendment to say what he wants," he said of their talk. 

Discussing the matter to the Journal Sentinel, Brandtjen's words weren't that much better. "I’m not wading into a Facebook fight between two grown men," she said.

Perhaps a state lawmaker's time is better spent on more important things than internet squabbles, even ones that involve one of her employees. But when those squabbles include false notions about the movement for Black Lives, or diminishing the terroristic role that the KKK has played in the U.S., pretending to be an adult is actually not the right action to take. Acting like one is a better move, which neither Brandtjen nor Savage showed themselves capable of doing here. 

Featured image credit: Anthony Quintano/Flickr  

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