America the Exceptional: My Response to Dean Phillips and his Vision of America as Systemically Racist

qualls_headshot-1-600x600-300x300.jpgKendall Qualls' opponent, first-term Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips, has attempted to convey the Black-American experience and redefine America in the process. On June 22, Dean Phillips emailed his supporters and stated that "Racism is deeply our institutions, and in our everyday lives." On June 23, Phillips posted a message on Facebook to reiterate that message. Phillips also created a "resource guide" on his website for "racial justice allyship"  to “understand our nation’s” black experience and combat "systemic racism" in America.

Kendall Qualls, as a Black-American descended from slaves, takes umbrage with Dean Phillips’ characterization of America as a systemically racist country. In its place, Kendall offers a vision of hope because "America is an exceptional place full of exceptional people” with opportunity for all. Kendall’s full response to Dean is below.
Kendall Qualls:  In response to my opponent, Dean Phillips, and his attempt to convey the Black experience and redefine America in the process, I’m going to tell you what it’s really like to be a Black man in America.
My opponent’s virtue signaling insults me, and it should insult you too. Dean Phillips got his degree in Urban Studies from an Ivy League School in the Northeast. I got my degree in Urban Studies from the streets of Harlem in New York City.
Yet, unlike him, I’m not going to lecture you on the evils of white people, or guilt you into believing that “white privilege” makes you personally responsible for slavery and the struggles Black people face today.

I’m not going to lecture you like he did by telling you “racism is deeply ingrained in our history, in our institutions, and in our everyday lives, and white people [like you] have benefited from it.” I’m not going to lecture you from a place of privilege as the third wealthiest member of the House of Representatives and tell you racial justice will only be achieved if you “forgo” your comfort and take the blame as a white person.

I’m also not going to sit idly by as statues topple, and they tell you our history needs to be erased or rewritten. Why? Because I don’t believe it.

Like you, I know the overwhelming majority of white people aren’t racist. But as a Black man I am going to tell you that if you look for racism in America you will find it. At the same time, if you look for opportunity in America you will find it tenfold.

I am also going to tell you that in spite of spending part of my childhood in a crime and drug-infested housing project in Harlem, in spite of spending the other part in a trailer park in rural Oklahoma, and in spite of having to work nights and weekends to put myself through school, I made it.

I made it because America is an exceptional place full of exceptional people. And there are millions more just like me who made it – white, black, brown, and everything in between. 

However, my opponent and his progressive comrades across the nation are using the tragic death of George Floyd to fuel the flames of racism and create a smoke screen to cover up how they failed our cities, our country, and the Black community.

When I was in high school, I remember big city politicians and urban elites calling America racist because Black-Americans struggled in the inner cities. Not much has changed. Black-Americans still struggle, the same urban elites dominate the conversation, and yet they present no fundamental plan for change. Empty platitudes and a reading list for white people won’t solve the struggles in the Black community. 

Those on the left tell us “we have to have the tough conversations” about race. I agree. Let’s have the “tough conversations” by looking at the real barriers to progress:

  • Progressive politicians and urban elites that want to shift accountability from the failed programs they’ve championed and benefited from the past 50 years.
  • The destruction of two-parent Black families through social programs that discourage marriage and result in generational welfare.
  • Policies that limit educational opportunities, prohibit school choice, and protect teachers' unions, preventing prosperity in the process.

This story isn’t being told in the halls of Congress but, rest assured, I won’t be afraid to speak truth to power. I won’t be afraid to “have the hard conversations.”
This election is about our country’s direction. We must fight the ideology of destruction and those who promote the vision of America as a systemically racist country. We must fight those who enable and spread this vision, paving the way for mob rule in the process.
My opponent can independently fund his political campaign from his trust fund. In fact, he already has. Do I begrudge him for his wealth? No, because this is America and everyone has a right to pursue prosperity and happiness. But I do take umbrage of his characterization of America given all that this country has given me and my family.

I’m not afraid to tell you that life isn’t fair. Like all countries, America has its imperfections. But with faith and hard work, you have the freedom in this country to overcome your circumstances and build a better life. I’m proof of it. I want to protect the freedom that allowed my opponent’s family to prosper, allowed me and my family to improve our lot in life, and make sure that freedom is here so you and your family can prosper too.

Today, we have a unique opportunity to put forth a model for racial healing and economic prosperity for all. The truth is when Black Americans prosper, we all prosper. But we will not get there by destroying monuments to abolitionists, removing pictures of Abraham Lincoln from the Minnesota House Chamber, or defunding police in the communities that need it most.
Instead, we must take action – in Minnesota and across our nation. We must speak up, protect our history, and promote principled solutions to heal our nation.
If we don’t, who will?