In Senate State Affairs Wednesday, Senator Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) showed both his racism and his lack of understanding of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by calling for racial and ethnic profiling. Asked about his racism at Saturday’s crackerbarrel, Novstrup made his racism even clearer.
But let’s look at the exact words out of Al’s mouth.
First, here is the question he posed to Matt Konenkamp, the policy advisor Governor Daugaard sent to oppose Senate Bill 200, the unconstitutional and unworkable refugee ban that Novstrup co-sponsored with Neal Tapio and the Bigot Brigade:
Senator Novstrup: After 9/11, I attended a rodeo in Brookings, South Dakota, about a year after the 9/11 incident. And the reason I’m telling this story is I went there with a 85-year-old grandmother, white hair, lived in Peever, South Dakota, her entire life, probably Norwegian, but I can’t verify that. And as we went in they searched about every fifth or tenth person because of 9/11. That was the terrorism that was on our minds. Even in a rodeo in South Dakota, you’d think, that would be the last place in the world you’d imagine it could happen. And then I looked back at 9/11, and I believe there’s 19 terrorists and I believe they’re all from the Middle East, and I believe they were all 19, 21, 23 years old.
So here’s my hypothetical question: As we search the people going into the rodeo in Brookings, South Dakota, should we be searching the 85-year-old Norwegian, or should we be looking for the people that are 19 years old from the Middle East? Which would you prefer?
Matt Konenkamp, SD DPS: You know, I wonder if the gentleman from Florida who shot that school would be searched under that test? Does he fit the profile that you are suggesting we ought to use to examine these people? And I think that illustrates the fact that it’s very hard to understand who’s going to commit these extreme crimes of violence. And in my estimation, the grandmothers probably most likely are not, but to the extent that the rest of the test suggests that we ought to be doing it based on nationality, I would reject that.
N: In my question, we were one year after 9/11. The only thing on my mind was 9/11. So who should we be searching?
K: O.K., so as I understand the hypothetical, we were immediately after 9/11, who should we be searching? It seems to me like you have an answer in your mind and you want me to tell you what the answer is in your mind, and I’m not going to do that today [Q&A, Senate State Affairs hearing on SB 200, 2018.02.21 timestamp 2:16:15 in SDPB audio].
Shortly after that exchange, the committee closed questions, and Senator Kris Langer (R-25/Dell Rapids) moved to defer SB 200 to the 41st day —i.e., kill it. Senator Novstrup spoke in opposition to that motion:
Novstrup: … I believe this bill should pass. And the story about Brookings and the rodeo is critical, and the reason is I believe we should be searching the people that look like the possible people that might be involved in the crime of the day, and at that time the crime of the day was 9/11. So there’s 195 countries in the world—
Chairman Ewing: Please stay germane to our motion, sir.
Novstrup: It is, sir. There’s 195 nations in the world. We’re saying to six of them that we’re concerned about the vetting process, we’re concerned about the people that come from those countries. There’s 189… countries that we’re not concerned about. Of the Muslim-majority countries, there’s 50 in the world. We’re saying to 45 of them, we’re o.k. with you guys. We’re o.k. with 45 out of 50 Muslim-majority countries. It’s the five plus North Korea that have been involved in a lot of killing that concern us. So for that reason… I’m going to go down the workforce concept. There’s 195 countries; you’re welcome to get workforce from 189 of them. You’re welcome to get immigrants from 195 of them, I guess. Thank you, Mr. Chair [Senate State Affairs on SB 200, 2018.02.21, 2:19:40].
To clarify: SB 200 named seven countries—Sudan, Syria, Somalia, Iran, Libya, Yemen, and North Korea—from which South Dakota would not permit any refugees or family reunification. None of the 9/11 hijackers came from any of those seven countries: 15 came from Saudi Arabia (where SB 200’s prime sponsor does business), two came from the United Arab Emirates, one came from Lebanon, and one came from Egypt.
Senator Troy Heinert (D-26/Mission) immediately put the unconstitutional racism of Senator Novstrup’s statement in historical context:
Heinert: I have to say something about those previous comments by the previous speaker. If we are going to start in this state searching, frisking, stopping, ostracizing people by how they look, we are going back to a time that was not good for our state. And I’m talking about how this state treated Native Americans… [SSA on SB 200, 2:21:05].
Senator Heinert wasn’t the only person to detect the racism in Senator Novstrup’s committee remarks. ACLU-South Dakota policy director Libby Skarin famously tweeted that Senator Novstrup’s line, “I believe we should be searching the people who look like the people who committed the crimes” of 9/11 was “literally advocacy for racial and ethnic profiling.”
Naomi Ludeman Smith, member of the Aberdeen Area Diversity Coalition, asked Senator Novstrup to give the context for that quote. You can compare the exact, verbatim context I give above with the context Senator Novstrup provided Saturday morning (below is my transcription of Novstrup’s complete response, from the Dakota Broadcasting video—scroll to 34:20 for Ludeman Smith’s question and Novstrup’s response)
The context is after I gave that speech, which included hundreds of words, my opponent next fall declared I was racist. I think that’s pretty inappropriate. I wish he was here so I could tell him that.
But here’s the context: We were debating a bill, and what the bill did was that it said that there are some—there’s 195 countries in the world. The bill said there are six of them—well, the federal government said that there are six countries so dangerous that you’re advised not to travel in those six countries. Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Yemen, and a few other countries. If you go there as an American, you’re going to be killed, most likely. North Korea? Those are dangerous places to go to. That’s why they’re on the no-travel—you can’t travel there as Americans, because the federal government says it’s too dangerous.
So what the bill said is we in South Dakota are going to attempt not to bring people those countries because those are dangerous countries. It’s a safety issue.
So let me back up. There’s 195 countries in the world. Six of them have been listed as dangerous countries.
And so I was telling the story—so we’re debating the concept of—is the concept is—is—should you choose—is there a difference between bringing somebody in from North Korea and bringing somebody in from Canada, or are you a racist to do that? I mean, that’s what my opponent is picturing this as [Sen. Al Novstrup, crackerbarrel response, Aberdeen, SD, 2018.02.24].
O.K., let’s pause here. What Heinert, Skarin, and several other observers along with called racist was not the U.S. State Department’s travel advisories, which currently deem eleven countries too dangerous for travel by Americans. Senate Bill 200 did not mention those eleven no-travel countries (Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, South Sudan, Mali, North Korea, Somalis, Syria, and Libya); it mentioned six of the seven countries most strongly targeted by Donald Trump’s September immigration ban (and swapped out Chad for Sudan for the seventh). Senator Novstrup said nothing in Senate State Affairs about the danger Americans face in traveling to any foreign country. He said he wanted to target individuals for searches based on whether they look like recent terrorists. That’s the line Heinert, Skarin, I, and most literate readers will cite as racist and unconstitutional.
Novstrup did get to the point. I’ll bold the salient lines. De-pause:
So I told the story, a true story that happened to me a year after 9/11/ I went to a rodeo in Brookings South Dakota, with a 85-year-old woman—and this is the story I told, you can go back and listen to it—and 85-year-old… woman and I went to a rodeo in Brookings. And as we were walking in, and there’s thousands of people coming in, and, they searched her. It’s a year after 9/11 in Brookings, South Dakota, and I thought, you are wasting your time. This person does not look like a terrorist. This person looks like an 85-year-old great-grandmother. Female, obviously a grandmother, female.
And so I said, what I thought would be—after having told the story about the 85-year-old grandmother from the Sisseton-Peever area, that they should be spending more time searching people that look like a terrorist.
And so here’s what a terrorist looks like: they are of mixed racial background.
If you look at the—I said, my quote was, they should be looking at people that look like the hijackers of 9/11. Go back to your computer today, Google “terrorist hijackers 9/11,” and what you’ll see is 19 individuals. That’s what I was describing. Here’s what you’ll find when you look them up. They’re multi-racial. They are of Caucusian descent, they’re of Asian descent, and they’re of African descent.
So my quote was racial because I pointed out a group of multiracial people are the people we should be looking at. Does that seem strange to you, that I’m a racist because I point out we should be looking at multi-racial people, meaning all the races? That’s what the quote said if you go back and look at the picture of the 9/11 terrorists. That’s what you’ll find.
What I was—that’s what I wasn’t saying. I wasn’t saying look at the race, because they were multi-racial. What I was saying is 18- to 26-year-olds are most prone to violence. 18 to 26 year olds are most prone to bad decision-making. Male 18 to 26 year olds are the ones that we should be looking at. And if you look at the terror—the hijackers, there’s 19 of them. 18 of them—nah, I’m probably a little bit high—17, 16—almost all of them fit the description that I described. Male, 18 to 26 years of age.
(Rep. Drew Dennert, male, 22, had to be feeling a bit uncomfortable at this point.)
And so for me by telling the truth and not bringing up the word racial—race and not even attacking a race, my fall opponent’s calling me a racist. After having known me in this community for the last forty years, I think that’s inappropriate, and I hope we have this debate as we go forward. I hope that’s the center point of this campaign. We’ll have this debate [Novstrup, 2018.02.24, 2018.02.24].
Novstrup carefully avoids mentioning his references in committee to “Norwegian” and “Middle East.” Novstrup doesn’t explain why, in defending SB 200 by speaking of searching people “that look like the possible people that might be involved in the crime of the day,” he reached back to a crime that happened sixteen and a half years ago instead of the mass shooting that happened this month (19-year-old Caucasian), or the mass shooting that happened three months ago (26-year-old Caucasian), or the mass shooting that happened four months ago (64-year-old Caucasian). He didn’t explain whether he is now saying that since South Koreans look just like North Koreans, we should stop and frisk all the Korean kids on the Northern State University campus to make sure they aren’t carrying VX nerve agent (oh, wait: the suspected assassins the North Koreans hired to kill Kim Jong-nam a year ago were a Vietnamese woman and an Indonesian woman—better search all Asian women, right, Al?).
Instead, the clearest thing Novstrup says in what my local paper must be tongue-in-cheekingly calling a “defense” tells us is, “…here’s what a terrorist looks like: they are of mixed racial background.”
Good grief: not only is Al racist, but now he’s telling us that terrorists are the products of miscegenation.
Novstrup knows he screwed up in committee. He knows he let slip a call for blanket racial profiling, which is racist and illegal. So now he’s backpedaling, changing his story, leaving out key details of his original statement, misrepresenting the bill he was defending, and trying to distract everyone from what he really said in committee, that we should search people on the street who look like Middle Easterners.
Novstrup’s Saturday comments didn’t change that racist stance. They only reinforced his racism.
And all he can cry is that it’s inappropriate for people to call his statement and stance racist.
No, Al. It’s perfectly appropriate to call racist words racist. It’s inappropriate to be racist.
And it’s beyond inappropriate for a legislator representing everyone in District 3, working for the good of everyone in South Dakota, to be racist.