Democratic Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota recently outlined the exact moment he fully realized the impacts of his White privilege.
Phillips made the comments during a speech on the House floor late last week. He was discussing the fear and panic he felt when the mob of insurrectionists stormed the Capitol on January 6.
Phillips described some fight or flight thinking that struck him as lawmakers began to evacuate. With only a few walls between the mob and Phillips, he recognized the difference between Republican and Democrat went far beyond policies in that moment.
It was a matter of personal, physical safety.
In the face of that fact, Phillips had an idea. But a limiting factor in his scheme became evident almost immediately. For Phillips, the hairpin thinking was instructive.
In a heartfelt address, he explained his reflections since the events of the Capitol riot.
"I'm not here this evening to seek sympathy or just to tell my story [but] rather to make a public apology. For recognizing that we were sitting ducks in this room as the chamber was about to be breached."
"I screamed to my colleagues to follow me, to follow me across the aisle to the Republican side of the chamber, so that we could blend in—so that we could blend in."
"For I felt that the insurrectionists who were trying to break down the doors would spare us, if they simply mistook us for Republicans."
"But within moments, I recognized that blending in was not an option available to my colleagues of color."
With a tearful, trembling voice, Phillips closed with a direct apology.
"So I'm here tonight to say to my brothers and sisters in Congress, and all around our country. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. For I had never understood, really understood, what privilege really means."
"It took a violent mob of insurrectionists and a lightning bolt moment in this very room. But now I know. Believe me, I really know."
You can see Phillips speech here:
Rep. Dean Phillips: "I'm here tonight to say to my brothers & sisters in Congress & all around our country, I'm sor… https://t.co/slWsp0Q1J5— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1612485533.0
People lauded Phillips for being so sincere and thoughtful about his own privilege.
@atrupar Now that is what an apology sounds like and the cracking in his voice shows how sorry he is that it took s… https://t.co/wlEvCZnOF2— lawa_0205 (@lawa_0205) 1612485946.0
@atrupar Wow, just wow! This was pretty powerful and tugged at my emotions. It’s this type of self awakening we nee… https://t.co/rbgZiJOhtS— Taquana (@Taquana) 1612490000.0
@atrupar Whatever this guy’s views or words were before this moment, his enlightenment, yes, his Wokeness, is very… https://t.co/uATCpuZrfy— Paterson Joseph (@Paterson Joseph) 1612509107.0
@atrupar This was a teachable moment for us all! Made me cry and at the same time, so proud that we have members of… https://t.co/dcZ0O7dNTb— M Michelle (@M Michelle) 1612491069.0
As the praise flowed in, a few people felt it was important to recognize understanding and knowing are different.
@atrupar Whilst I agree with the sentiment. I have to say no you don't know. You don't really know. You had a reali… https://t.co/Vvfb4kIGN4— Dratsab 💙 (@Dratsab 💙) 1612489900.0
@lawam_2221 @atrupar I think this is good. Truly. But I also think that what should be clear to him, and to ppl wa… https://t.co/O1btAcVhMA— Brandon (@Brandon) 1612492740.0
Although the riot at the Capitol on January 6 only lasted a few hours, it's been clear the event carried a profound impact on most lawmakers in the House and Senate.
Now that roughly a month has passed since that day, people hold empowering hindsight and an adequate distance to reflect. Perhaps more understanding like this is in our future.