David Stringer, a Republican Arizona state lawmaker, is under fire for saying that black people “don’t blend in” and was previously accused of making racist comments about African-Americans.
Stringer said in audio obtained by The Phoenix New Times that early European immigrants from places like Ireland and Italy eventually “looked the same” and “talked the same” but said that African-Americans and other racial groups “don’t blend in. They always look different.”
“Maybe it doesn’t” matter, he said, but “it seems to matter to a lot of people.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. David Stringer Complained That Black People Will ‘Always Look Different’
Speaking at Arizona State University on November 19, students challenged Stringer on his anti-immigration views after he claimed that “diversity in our country is relatively new.”
“They were all European,” Stringer said of immigrants from Ireland and Italy. “So after their second or third generation, everybody looks the same. Everybody talks the same. That’s not the case with African-Americans and other racial groups because they don’t melt in. They don’t blend in. They always look different.”
“Why does looking different matter?” a student asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t,” he replied. “Maybe it doesn’t to a lot of people. It seems to matter to a lot of people who move out of Detroit, who move out of Baltimore. You know we have white flight in this country.”
The student questioned him about the difference between his Polish great-grandfather and an immigrant of color.
“The difference between the Polish-American immigrant and the immigrant from Somalia is the second-generation Polish immigrant looks like the Irish kid and the German kid and every other kid. But the immigrant from Somalia does not,” Stringer replied.
“Does that matter?” the student asked.
“That’s a legitimate question. It doesn’t matter to you. Maybe that’s a good thing. It seems to matter to a lot of people,” Stringer says.
2. David Stringer Also Called Non-Native English Speakers a ‘Burden’
In another audio clip obtained by The Phoenix New Times, a student asked Stringer how he would address issues with assimilation but he went off on a tangent about majority-black cities.
“I don’t know how to fix Detroit,” Stringer said. “I don’t know if anybody does know how to fix Detroit. I lived in Baltimore for years. I don’t know how to fix that.”
“But that’s a different issue than immigration,” he continued. “Cities are primarily African-American. They are diverse. They have other groups, but they are primarily African-American. The immigration thing is affecting Arizona and California, Texas, Florida — states like that in a very dramatic way. It’s producing tensions and it’s producing burdens on our system.”
“It costs a lot of more to educate a child who doesn’t speak English as a native language,” he added. “So that’s a burden on the taxpayers. It’s a pretty significant burden.”
3. David Stringer Previously Complained ‘There Aren’t Enough White Kids’
In June, Stringer came under fire from even those in his own party when he complained about what he perceives as a lack of white kids.
“Sixty percent of public school children in the state of Arizona today are minorities,” Stringer said at a Yavapai County Republican Men’s Forum event. “That complicates racial integration because there aren’t enough white kids to go around.”
“Immigration today represents an existential threat to the United States,” he claimed. “If we don’t do something about immigration very, very soon, the demographics of our country will be irrevocably changed and we will be a very different country. It will not be the country you were born into.”
Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey called on Stringer to resign after the comments.
“I don’t think there’s any place for that kind of commentary in the public square and he’s basically disqualified himself to lead at the state level,” Ducey said at the time.
4. David Stringer Won Re-Election Despite Racism Accusations
Despite the controversies, Stringer successfully ran for reelection in November. He rejected allegations of racism and called himself a “truth teller.”
“My political opponents have taken 51 seconds out of a 16-minute speech to try to distort my message and mislead voters,” Stringer said. “We recognize the tactic. I’m not interested in taking the fake news bait.”
He said in a statement:
In my speech, I spoke at length about my efforts to pass criminal justice reform which is a long time passion of mine. Our criminal justice system is broken and disproportionately targets minorities, more often than not for low level drug offenses.
My remarks also touched on several other issues including immigration ― both legal and illegal ―and the challenge of successfully assimilating large numbers of immigrants over a short period of time. Arizona and our country as a whole are in the throes of rapid demographic change. This presents issues of urgent public concern because of the strain it places on important institutions of our society including schools, prisons and our health care system.
My comments about school integration were factually accurate and were intended to illustrate the challenges facing successful integration when white students are a rapidly declining percentage of the whole. This issue cries out for honest and open public discussion.
Regrettably, my political opponents seek to shut down discussion with name calling and vile accusations. The irony is that in an effort to take cheap political shots, they are attacking the rarest of elected officials ― a conservative Republican who is championing criminal justice reform in the face of political threats and challenges from powerful elements and politicians in my own party.
I am not afraid of conservative bigwigs and I’m not afraid of liberal bullies either. Anyone who doubts this is welcome to come hear me speak and judge for yourself if I am a truth teller.
5. A Black Lawmaker Called for David Stringer to Be Punished
Arizona State Rep. Reginald Bolding issued a statement calling on state House Speaker Rusty Bower to remove Stringer from his vice chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee and his chairmanship of the House Sentencing & Recidivism Reform Committee.
The African-American Democrat said in a statement that “Rep. Stringer has reduced what it means to be American down to one thing, how you look. That’s one thing I can’t change. I love this country as much as him, I’ve worked as hard as him, if not harder, to make my community better, and yet if I were to move in next door, it sounds to me like he’d pack up and move away that night.”
READ NEXT: Paul Caneiro: 5 Fast Facts You Need To Know