Nothing says discrimination like booing a Black person trying to talk about discrimination.
Such is life during a floor debate inside the Indiana Statehouse on Thursday in which Black lawmakers claimed that a bill would allow students in the largely white St. Joseph County township to leave the racially diverse South Bend Community Schools to join a smaller, rural school made up of mostly white students.
Rep. Greg Porter, (D-Indianapolis,) walked off the House floor after several Republican colleagues booed and loud talked over his claims that the move was discriminatory.
The bill’s author, Rep. Jake Teshka, (R-South Bend,) told the USA Today that the move was about transportation issues.
From USA Today:
After Porter walked off the House floor overcome with emotion, Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, reiterated concerns about discrimination and spoke about his own experiences facing discrimination as a Black man, being pulled over for “driving while Black” and being denied access to certain places because of the color of his skin. He was met with “boos” from several other GOP lawmakers.
Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, then walked out over his objections to Smith’s testimony.
Lucas declined to answer questions about what happened, other than to criticize media reports as inaccurate without saying specifically why.
Lucas was sanctioned by the GOP Speaker of the House, Todd Huston, over the summer for sharing a racist meme. The chairwoman of the Black caucus, Robin Shackleford, had released a scathing call for Lucas’s removal from several committees, saying he was unremorseful. She also called for the House to have bias training, saying “his thinking and his behavior is enabled by the complacency of some of our colleagues.”
Shackleford said Thursday that leadership of the Black caucus and House Democrats met with Huston after the incident on the floor and, again, asked for the training.
“If they’re feeling that we’re constantly attacking them and they’re taking it personal, then they’re going to be on the defense and we’re never going to go anywhere,” Shackleford said.
Teshka, unlike his Republican cohorts, wasn’t offended that some Black lawmakers took issue with the bill he wrote.
“I’m not taking any of this personally, so please don’t feel like you have to come to my defense,” he told his colleagues during the closing debate on his bill.
The bill passed, 52-43, USA Today reports.