Home Donald Trump Sen. Chap Petersen Pens Rambling, Out-of-Touch Defense of His Attendance at Jamestown

Sen. Chap Petersen Pens Rambling, Out-of-Touch Defense of His Attendance at Jamestown

Chap’s framing of this issue furthers the idea that the voices and actions by leaders of color don’t matter


by Bill Rice, a student at Georgetown University Law Center, interning this summer at the Virginia Poverty Law Center

Fresh off his horrible, survivor-shaming comments about the serious sexual assault and rape allegations against Virginia Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-SD34) is at it again.

Last night Petersen posted a rambling, out-of-touch defense of his attendance at the Jamestown 400th anniversary celebration where President Trump served as keynote speaker.

The “highlights” of this post include: a complete downplaying of the numerous crises facing the United States; an ahistorical diatribe promoting racist tropes against Indigenous Americans; and a complete missing of the point of why attending this ceremony was an insult to many Virginians, especially immigrants and communities of color.

The second paragraph of Petersen’s post starts with the ridiculous claim that “[t]oday’s America likes to imagine it’s in a crisis.” Really Chap? Imagine? IMAGINE?

I don’t know what country Chap’s been living in over the past few years but I see nothing “imagine[d]” about the various crisis facing the United States today.

Migrants fleeing terrible and sometimes life-or-death situations in their home countries are being rounded up, cruelly separated from their children, and denied the legal right of asylum. Children, many with no grasp of the English language, are being locked up in cages and trotted before judges with little to no legal representation. Swaths of innocent people are being clumped together in inhumane conditions, under-resourced and treated as barely human.

But I guess that’s not a crisis. Right, Chap?

Our nation’s immigration system has become racist and bigoted, even attacking documented immigrants and U.S. citizens. Individuals from certain Muslim-majority countries are banned from entering our country. Our refugee and asylum processes have been neutered.

But I guess that’s not a crisis. Right, Chap?

Climate change continues to progress relatively unabated, with scientists warning in a recent UN report that we only have 12 years to prevent global catastrophe.

But I guess that’s not a crisis. Right, Chap?

The undemocratic trend of wealth and income inequality is soaring. Meanwhile, most Americans’ wages remain stagnant among rising costs for housing, healthcare, and education. And the wealth and income gaps between white Americans and African Americans/Latinx Americans/Indigenous Americans remains startling, with institutional racism in our government and society still rampant.

But I guess that’s not a crisis, either. Right, Chap?

After this outlandish, baseless claim Chap goes on to say that, in contrast to today’s America, the Jamestown settlers “had real problems.” Chief among them, apparently, was “hostile natives.”

Leaving aside the racist trope of “hostile natives” (hell, I’d be “hostile” too if someone popped up on my land uninvited and started stealing resources from me), I fail to see how lamenting the hardships of Jamestown colonists is somehow an effective counter to the very real crises facing the U.S. today. A more astute mind might even draw a comparison between the struggles of a transient group of people entering a new land for better opportunity to the struggles of poor, struggling individuals from South and Central America doing the very same thing today.

Chap goes on to describe the history of African Americans in Virginia as one wherein they simply skipped from the “cruel and barbaric existence” of slavery to a time of “thriv[ing].” Chap, of course, is missing a few key parts of African American history here. And further missing the point that things currently aren’t exactly a thriving utopia for many African Americans in the U.S. today, especially under the Trump administration’s Department of Justice.

Chap closes his post by stating he’s “proud to be a native of this land.” The cluelessness here is pretty blatant; for, only a few lines above he described actual natives of this land as hostile threats to white colonizers.

But the heart of the issue here is that Chap misses the point entirely. Nothing of what he outlines in his post addresses at all the central criticism of why attending the anniversary celebration was a toothless kowtowing to Trump and his shameful administration.

As I outlined in detail before, sitting silently in attendance of a de facto Trump rally where this demagogic harbinger of xenophobia, white nationalism, and hate was allowed to speak a keynote address unchallenged, and in a comfortable setting, is tantamount to allowing these things to grow and strengthen.

And like many out-of-touch politicians before him, Chap Petersen simply ignores the voice and actions of admirable leaders of color, like those of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus who commendably decided to boycott the commemoration and hold alternative events. Chap’s framing of this issue furthers the idea that their voices, their actions, don’t matter – he knows better.

But calling Chap out-of-touch at this point is an understatement. He’s clearly way too removed from the daily plights and struggles of both the average Virginian and Virginia’s most vulnerable communities.

Well. Out of touch? Actually it’s worse. More like out of sight. Out of mind. Which hopefully Chap will be after the next primary season.


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