In an interview on Fox News Sunday, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he does not believe systemic racism exists in the United States and appeared to justify his sentiments by citing the elections of ex-president Barack Obama and current VP Kamala Harris.
Graham’s comment was in response to President Joe Biden’s statement following the April 20 conviction of Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd. In his statement, Biden said Floyd’s death in the hands of the former Minneapolis cop “ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see” the existence of systemic racism in the country and the need to confront it “head-on.”
“The systemic racism that is a stain on our nation’s soul; the knee on the neck of justice for Black Americans; the profound fear and trauma, the pain, the exhaustion that Black and brown Americans experience every single day,” Biden had said.
But Graham dismissed the notion that systemic racism exists in the United States when the show’s host Chris Wallace asked for his response after playing the video of Biden’s speech, Rolling Stone reported. “No. Not in my opinion,” Graham said on Sunday.
The 65-year-old senator went on to mention the elections of Obama and Harris as examples to back his claim. “We just elected a two-term African-American president; the vice president is of African-American Indian descent. So our systems are not racist. America is not a racist country,” he said. In the past, other Republican party members have also denied the existence of systemic racism in the country though it has been widely acknowledged.
Elsewhere in the interview, Graham acknowledged Chauvin’s conviction was fair but was quick to play down the barrage of criticisms on America’s entire policing system.
“The Chauvin trial was a just result,” he said, according to CNN. “What’s happening in Ohio [Ma’Khia Bryant shooting], where the police officer had to use deadly force to prevent a young girl from being stabbed to death, is a different situation in my view. So this attack on police and policing — reform the police, yes, call them all racist, no.”
“America is a work in progress.”
The topic of police reform and introducing a bill that would amend a host of laws in policing has been heavily debated by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Graham said the two sides can strike a bipartisan deal if Democrats are willing to make changes on their demands to scrap qualified immunity. The legal principle usually protects officers and their departments from facing civil lawsuits pertaining to police violence.
“Qualified immunity is a problem,” Graham admitted. “It’s a pretty simple solution: Don’t sue the police officer, sue the department.”