White MN senator: If there's racism, how come Obama won?

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) also noted the achievements of 'these professional sports stars.'

Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) also noted the achievements of 'these professional sports stars.' YouTube

Minnesota Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria) has been known for making sweeping statements.

Like the one recently implying the debate about defunding the Minneapolis police department was the reason why “little kids” were “being shot.”

Also for trying to make English the official language of Minnesota, which would have done little else other than make it really hard for residents who didn’t speak perfect English to understand written instructions on how to vote.

The former Douglas County sheriff  is seeking a fifth term to represent his district in the west-central part of the state, containing parts of Otter Tail and Douglas Counties.

On Thursday, Ingebrigtsen appeared alongside his Democratic challenger, Michele Anderson of Fergus Falls, for a debate on the local public television station. Like most things that appear on PBS, it was a very understated and soft-spoken affair. Unless you were paying attention to the particularly understated and soft-spoken bullshit coming out of Senator Ingebrigtsen’s mouth.

The moderator asked the candidates what Minnesota legislators can do to end racial disparities and protect human rights in our state.

Anderson acknowledged this as a critical issue our state is “reckoning” with, and the first step is acknowledging it exists. That the outcomes for endeavors like having a child, getting a job, having a safe place to live, and being treated fairly by law enforcement can vary wildly depending on the color of your skin. (This has been studied and quantified many times over in Minnesota and beyond.)

“I appreciate the work that Senator Ingebrigtsen does, but unfortunately, this is something I really think he needs to do a better job on,” Anderson said. In particular, she mentioned that she’d prefer to see more teachers of color in classrooms, because students have been proven to do better in school when they have role models on hand who look like them.

Ingebrigtsen was asked the same question. His response started out confusing, then veered pretty quickly into upsetting.

“Well, quite frankly, I think this country is going through some times now where I guess it’s the… I guess I don’t know how to put it, exactly. But I don’t think there’s an educational opportunity that’s been turned down for a teacher,” Ingebrigtsen began, seemingly vaguely addressing Anderson’s point about teachers of color in classrooms.

He continued: “We shouldn’t even be talking about this. We shouldn’t even be discussing this. And I don’t believe there is racial discrimination going on. I absolutely don’t.”

He said he was born in the ‘60s and remembered seeing Civil Rights protests on TV, with “fire trucks and hoses and dogs and horses.” He also said we’d come “leaps and bounds” since then, though without addressing how often recent police brutality protests resulted in protesters seriously injured by tear gas and less-lethal projectiles.

In an aside, Ingebrigtsen suggested that somehow civil rights got a little worse “under the Obama administration.”

Ingebrigtsen didn’t respond to interview requests about what exactly he meant, and no explanation was given as to why he believed this.

He went on to claim, seemingly, that police had been maligned in today’s national conversation about racism and law enforcement, which turned into condoning police violence as something that is inevitable and merely “unfortunate.”

“We don’t blame that one person for the whole community,” he said. “If that community isn’t raising their children in the proper fashion, that’s not a policeman’s issue. They’re going to be called in there if there’s crime…. And yes, unfortunate things are going to happen. There’s going to be some shootings.”

The coda to Ingebrigtsen’s argument was really the cherry on top of this baffling pie, implying that if racism existed, we wouldn’t have had the one Black president in the nation’s history and… Serena Williams, maybe?

“But to sit here and lie to people and say we are in a horrible racist situation in this country, I’d have to ask, how did Obama get to be where he is? How did these professional sports stars get to be where they are?”

You can see that in its entirety here.

Because Ingebrigtsen didn’t respond, we were unable to ask him if he knew of any other successful Black people than former President Barack Obama and... athletes.