Congressman Steve King speaks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition in Des Moines on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition is a dedicated to educating the public and training Christians for effective political action. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

Rosario: Rep. Steve King, radio announcers champion racism in the Heartland


Iowa has made national headlines in recent weeks for a series of racist incidents.

By Isabella Rosario

Iowa has made national headlines in recent weeks, and they’ve been for everything but our state’s motto of being “Iowa Nice.” On the contrary, radio announcers and our very own elected officials have collaborated in desecrating that reputation.

The first incident occurred when two Forest City radio announcers noticed players on the opposing Eagle Grove team had Latino names.

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“They have, apparently, a lot of Español people in Eagle Grove,” longtime announcer Orin Harris said.

“They’re just going to gradually come into town … yeah, right,” his female cohost said.

“As Trump would say, go back to where they came from,” Harris said.  His cohost agreed that some days, she felt like that, too.

Both announcers have since been fired.  Interestingly, Harris apologized by saying, “This is not who I am.”

The second incident involved none other than notorious racist and U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who received immense backlash for some of his tweets.

And to top it all off, Gov. Kim Reynolds says she will retain King as a co-head of her 2018 election campaign.  But for someone who has publicly called Iowa liberals “unhinged,” perhaps it should come as no surprise that Reynolds is once again choosing party over people.

RELATED: Rep. King: It’s Obama’s fault

Growing up as a person of color, I’ve dealt with my fair share of aggressive, King-like racism — from kids on the playground calling me Chinese to elderly people at Walmart yelling at me “Go back to your country” to online commenters hurling racial slurs at me I hadn’t even heard of before.  But what’s scared me more in recent years is the complicity I see in my fellow Iowans to allow this behavior to continue.  It seems like nothing King says to disparage the lives of others is enough to stop voting for him, as long as those lives aren’t white.

And those same voters often fall into the same camp as fired radio announcer Harris. While his apology came across as genuine to me, his lack of self-awareness in distancing himself from his own words is troubling. Much of the pervasive racism in our country today does not derive from hate but ignorant indifference.  Most of those who voted for President Trump and King are not raging white supremacists. Rather, they made a choice that did not consider Americans like me.

Reynolds, in continuing her campaign with King by her side, does not consider Americans like me.

I’m afraid I’ve had difficulty in developing a nuanced, articulate take on this — racism is just so demoralizing. I try my best to remind myself that Iowa is more than 90 percent white, and that many white Iowans with a blatant disregard for people of color just may not have encountered many of us personally. But then I am conflicted by the fact that regardless of race, faith, ability, gender, or any other arbitrary markers that separate us, we are all just human.

And so I wonder—what do Iowans of color have to do in order for white Iowans to recognize their humanity?

Why isn’t our mere existence enough?

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