Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida took up Democratic California Rep. Eric Swalwell’s challenge to say “black lives matter” on Wednesday, but added that “all lives matter.”
The exchange came during a House Judiciary Committee hearing regarding proposed police reform legislation in response to the death of George Floyd.
At the hearing, Swalwell quoted Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, saying, “Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important. It means that black lives, which are seen as without value within white supremacy, are important to your liberation.”
“When black people get free everybody gets free.”
“Black lives matter, period,” Swalwell said after quoting Garza.
“So I would yield to any of my colleagues on the Republican side who can unequivocally say as we calibrate where we are right now that black lives matter,” the congressman continued.
“Does the gentleman believe that all lives matter, as well?” Gaetz asked in response. “I think black lives matter. I think all lives matter.”
“Can anyone on the Republican side say, unequivocally, black lives matter?” Swalwell shot back.
“Unequivocally, all lives matter. Why is that a problem to acknowledge?” Gaetz retorted.
Swalwell did not answer, but commented, “I think it’s clear that my colleagues on the other side would like to put up a strawman to not have the uncomfortable conversation that we need to have about race.”
The Californian then argued the problem is systemic racism in the United States, which is manifest through police actions.
“Typically in police shootings, most of the focus is on the conduct of the officer, and we never get to the harder part about the systemic issues we have in our country,” Swalwell said.
“Nobody is disputing that what the officer did here with Mr. Floyd should be defended, so we have the have the harder conversation about systemic issues and policing,” he added.
Conservative commentator Brandon Tatum, who served as a police officer in Tucson, Arizona, disputes the notion that the United States is systemically racist.
“I think that a lot of what people are accusing the country of, whether systemic racism and oppression, I believe personally it’s more in the mind than it is in real-life application,” Tatum told The Western Journal.
“There are so many institutions and situations where it proves that this country isn’t racist that it’s almost impossible to point to a certain area where you could say, ‘OK, this is blatant racism that goes on in America that can be perceived as being systemic,’” he added.
Tatum argued that the U.S. is actually “anti-racist” based on the current state of the law.
“I think that the word ‘systemic racism’ is something that has been created because people need to perpetuate division and when they cannot find enough actual evidentiary situations, they come up with a term like ‘systemic’ because there is no way to verify it and no way to fix it,” he said.
Tatum added that fewer African-Americans have been shot since President Donald Trump took office than under former President Barack Obama.
A Washington Post database tracking fatal police shootings since 2015 shows that year-by-year numbers of African-Americans have not increased since Trump took office.
Swalwell began to close out his remarks on Wednesday, reiterating, “Black lives matter. I’m sad to say no one on the other side will say it.”
Texas Republican Rep. Louis Gohmert then interjected, “Black lives do matter, unequivocally.”
“Every life is precious, God-given and black lives matter, unequivocally. Every life is important,” he said.
Swalwell thanked him.
Gaetz later tweeted a video clip of his back-and-forth with Swalwell, writing, “All life is precious. All lives matter.”
All life is precious.
All lives matter. https://t.co/b1CfKK5Tfd
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) June 17, 2020
Gaetz also responded to a tweet by actor/director Terry Kinney, who had called the congressman a racist tool.
The Hollywood Woke Left wants you to think it is *racist* to claim that All Lives Matter.
What is happening to America? https://t.co/eDBiSpEH6f
— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) June 17, 2020
“The Hollywood Woke Left wants you to think it is *racist* to claim that All Lives Matter,” Gaetz wrote. “What is happening to America?”
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