I’m not sure precisely how I missed this three days ago, but Vanessa Summers’ party identification strikes me as the most likely reason few outside of Indianapolis picked it up. Online media lives for the chance to humiliate elected officials — it’s a large element of the business model, assuming the humiliation doesn’t come at the expense of ideological narrative.
BizPacReview’s Carmine Sabia spotted it moments ago: Rep. Vanessa Summers (D-Indianapolis), who has represented the 99th District since 1991, thinks white toddlers who fear her are racist. Rather than follow the well-trod path of her progressive brethren by writing a Masters thesis — say, “Changes in Postmodern White Toddler Microaggression in Middle America, Pre- and Post-LBJ” — she took her revelation to an open mic on the statehouse floor:
Lawmaker says colleague’s toddler feared her because she’s black
The already contentious debate over Indiana’s proposed “religious freedom” bill took a surreal twist Monday afternoon when — in the midst of discussion on the bill — a Democratic lawmaker said that a Republican lawmaker’s child was “scared” of her because she is black.
The comment by Rep. Vanessa Summers drew audible gasps, in no small part because the child — the son of Rep. Jud McMillin — is 18 months old.
“I told Jud McMillin I love his son, but he’s scared of me because of my color,” Summers told McMillin, who is white, during debate over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the House.
“It’s hard,” said Summers, D-Indianapolis. Then, as other lawmakers groaned at the comments, she followed up with, “It’s true.”
“He looked at me like I was a monster and turned around and cried. And I told him you need to introduce your child to some people that are dark-skinned so he will not be scared,” she said.
McMillin, R-Brookville, called Summers’ comments “unfortunate.”
“It’s just incredibly unfortunate. You’d like to think that we would have professional discussion on the House floor and certainly be able to avoid having 18-month-olds in the discussion,” he said.
“I can tell you that if he reacted the same way he reacts with anybody brand new, he buries his head in his dad’s shoulder,” McMillin said. “Whoever it is, it’s what he does. He’s an 18-month-old kid; he’s in a new environment up here in the place like the Statehouse but doesn’t know anybody. I honestly don’t remember anything out of the ordinary.”
Tim Swarens, op-ed editor at local outlet Indystar, brought some relief to the nation by informing that the Democrat contingent of this chamber is abysmally weak:
It’s a hard fact of life: Toddlers cry. They cry when Dad picks them up. They cry when Mom puts them down. They cry when they’re hungry, and while they’re being fed. They cry before a nap and after a nap. And, on an especially bad day for their parents, during a nap.
Why do they cry? Because they’re toddlers.
But state Rep. Vanessa Summers, a Democrat from Indianapolis, has a different theory about why the 18-month-old son of a colleague in the Indiana House cries.
She thinks it’s because his father, state Rep. Jud McMillin, is a racist.
Now, it’s tempting to write off Summers’ comments as the irrational rant of a lawmaker who is all but irrelevant. Her party controls only 29 seats in the 100 member House, and Summers isn’t exactly one of the leading lights of the Democrats’ tiny caucus.
Yet there should be professional standards — even in the Indiana General Assembly. And by any standard, Summers leaped over a line that no one should cross without consequence.
Don’t criticize a colleague’s parenting skills, especially in a professional setting. Don’t insinuate that a co-worker is a racist, unless there’s hard evidence. Don’t assume you can read the mind of a toddler. Don’t make personal what should be a debate about policy.
Don’t, if you have nothing of value to add, say anything.