Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) delivered a speech on the House floor Thursday night recounting his experience during the Capitol riot and said the ordeal helped him to understand his “privilege,” for which he tearfully apologized.
Speaking during a special order hour that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) organized, Phillips joined several other Democratic members of Congress to reflect on the unrest of Jan. 6.
Phillips first rose to thank Ocasio-Cortez for organizing the special order hour and “for inspiring rising generations” such as his daughters.
Remembering how he was one of 20 members of Congress who took cover in the House gallery when the Capitol was breached on Jan. 6, Phillips said he wasn’t sure if he was going to survive or if he would have to stab would-be attackers with his pencil.
“But I’m not here this evening to seek sympathy or just to tell my story [but] rather to make a public apology,” said Phillips. “For recognizing that we were sitting ducks in this room as the chamber was about to be breached. I screamed to my colleagues to follow me, to follow me across the aisle to the Republican side of the chamber, so that we could blend in — so that we could blend in.”
Phillips said he then realized at the time that if he were a person of color, he would not be able to blend in by pretending to be a Republican, which moved him to realize the privilege he claims he has as a white man.
His voice shaking with emotion, Phillips apologized to his colleagues and the entire country for his white privilege. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry. For I had never understood, really understood, what privilege really means. It took a violent mob of insurrectionists and a lightning bolt moment in this very room. But now I know. Believe me, I really know.”
This evening on the floor of the House, I shared reflections about the January 6th insurrection, a lightning bolt moment, and an apology many years in the making. pic.twitter.com/vS2WERQNz6
— Rep. Dean Phillips 🇺🇸 (@RepDeanPhillips) February 5, 2021
Phillips was not the only participant of the evening to be moved to tears remembering the riot. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), who was not present at the Capitol when the riot took place, openly wept on the House floor speaking about the death threats she receives. As The Daily Wire reported:
Tlaib was not present at the Capitol during the riot, but was moved with emotion remembering how the riot made her feel. As she rose to speak, she started to cry almost immediately.
“On my very first day of orientation, I got my first death threat,” Tlaib began. “It was a serious one. They took me aside, the FBI had to go to the gentleman’s home. I didn’t even get sworn in yet and someone wanted me dead for just existing. More came later. Uglier, more violent.”
Tlaib’s emotion rose as she went on to mention a death threat she received that celebrated the New Zealand mosque massacre and another that mentioned her son by name.
“Each one paralyzed me each time,” Tlaib continued, as Ocasio-Cortez moved into frame to console her. “So what happened on Jan. 6, all I could do was thank Allah that I wasn’t here.”