A Democrat asked a Republican what he “identifies as” during a Missouri House debate Thursday over state funding for diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
“I identify as an American,” Rep. Justin Hicks, R-Lake St. Louis, said to raucous applause.
“Not African-American?” his colleague pressed.
Hicks was answering questions (at about the 10:30 mark) from Democrat Rep. Marlene Terry of St. Louis, who fiercely questioned, sometimes seeming to lecture, Hicks on his support of measures to prohibit funding for DEI programs at state institutions.
The House approved the measures, sending them on to the Missouri Senate.
Hicks stood his ground, albeit graciously, even as Terry called him “delusional” for believing in racial equality. Terry told Hicks she had to fight for 20 years to become a legislator, and asked if he thinks that’s “equal.”
“I think that you’re given the same opportunity as anyone else in this building to get there,” Hicks responded.
Hicks elaborated on his views about DEI funding when Fox News came calling.
“These programs by themselves promote giving preferential treatment to certain groups, when we’re all equal under the law,” Hicks told Fox.
The left is out of touch with reality and what’s happening today, he added.
“We’ve moved beyond issues of race here in America. I think they look for words to divide us instead of unite us.”
Hicks was asked how the country can return to notions of a meritocracy.
“I think we have to start with taking race out of the conversation altogether. When you do that, you’re focusing on people’s merits and character.
“Race has never been an issue in my life. I’ve never thought of people on the level of race. I treat people like people.”
Terry, talking about unspecified people of privilege, asked Hicks how he got elected. He said he won election on his own merit, not on being a person of color or by “race baiting stuff that it seems like you’re promoting here.”
Terry nonetheless accused Hicks of promoting privilege and “tokenism.”
“I didn’t come from a privileged background,” Hicks assured her, adding that his father died when he was 12 and his low-income mom was left to support and raise him and his two brothers.
“I had to work my butt off to get where I am today,” he told her.