Rep. Charles Blake, D-Little Rock, said every elected official in Arkansas — black, brown, or white — needs to take a stand on condemning racist remarks like the ones President Donald Trump is alleged to have said during a meeting on immigration last week.
“This is a continuing pattern. It’s going to take our allies… it’s not going to take me, or someone in my stature, someone who looks like me to change the perception, to let the world know, to let our allies know that this is not our sentiment. This is not who we are. This is not who we are anymore,” Blake said in an appearance on Talk Business & Politics.
He said Arkansas’ elected officials should take a stand against the President’s statement that immigrants from Haiti, Africa and El Salvador are from “s*%#hole countries.”
“We should hear from the administration. We should hear from the Hutchinson’s. We should hear from the Rutledge’s. We should hear from [Sen.] Cotton and [Cong.] Hill about it,” Blake said. “To have a sitting president come out and have racist remarks leading into the weekend that we’re talking about unity, that we’re talking about progress, it’s something that everyone in this administration, everyone that’s in the state of Arkansas, to come out and say this is not who we are. That was racist and we demand better.”
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Rex Nelson said the President’s comments were “indefensible.”
“Unfortunately, it’s not new. We do seem to see new lows, though, with each passing week. And if you expected me to come on here and defend the president, you’re not going to get that from me,” Nelson said. “There’s certain things I just can’t defend and I don’t think other Republicans can try to defend. Yes, I did work for a Republican governor. I worked for a Republican president. I was proud to serve in the Huckabee, in the Bush administrations, but there are certain things here that are indefensible and this is indefensible.”
Blake expressed optimism about the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which in Arkansas will be separated from Robert E. Lee’s birthday after a measure cleared the state legislature in 2017. Blake co-sponsored a bill in 2015 that did not move far in the General Assembly. In 2017, Gov. Asa Hutchinson threw his support behind the bill.
“Gov. Hutchinson deserves a lot of credit,” Blake said, describing a phone call he received from the governor after the bill failed. “The governor said, ‘I didn’t do as much as I could have and we’re going to fix this in 2017.’ I mean, he got with the Black Caucus and he heard and he listened and I think this is a step, this is a step in the direction we should be headed. This is a step where we say we can work together.”
Nelson agreed that the bipartisanship exhibited on the MLK holiday issue is a high-profile one reminiscent of another historic event in Arkansas.
“It was really good to see both Republicans and Democrats come together on this,” Nelson said. “Let’s not forget that Winthrop Rockefeller, a Republican governor, was the only Southern governor after Dr. King was assassinated in 1968 who stood at a state capitol with civil rights leaders. So we, in that sense, have a proud heritage here in Arkansas. And I think that Gov. Hutchinson, through the leadership that he showed last year, was actually hearkening back to that leadership that Winthrop Rockefeller showed in the wake of the assassination of Dr. King just two hours down the road in 1968.”
Watch Blake’s and Nelson’s full roundtable discussion in the video below.