Episode 87 - Let’s change Jefferson’s Manual of House Rules

Transcript, Web links and Credits below.


White nationalism and white supremacy are growing all over the world. And yesterday, in the British Parliament, Tan Dhesi, a member from the Labour Party, confronted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson right to his face for his history of racism. I’ll play it for you shortly.

Did you know that the United States Congress currently has rules that actually ban the very thing that Tan Dhesi said yesterday. It’s true. It’s against the rules to call the President, or even the words of the President, racist.

I think we should change that. We’re not just here to change the news. We’re to change the world.

This is Shaun King and you are listening to (The Breakdown)!


White supremacy and white nationalism are on the rise all over the world — and the greatest evidence is the fact that openly racist, openly bigoted men and women are being elected to governments everywhere. And this notion that it’s better for a bigot to be open with their bigotry instead of hiding it, is a lie. Because open bigotry fuels and grows and empowers bigotry. When someone knows that they can be openly bigoted, hate crimes rise and hateful policies rise. And listen, I’m not saying that closeted, hidden bigotry doesn’t have consequences. It does, but what we are facing now is uniquely problematic.

But yesterday in the British Parliament, Tan Dhesi, the first Sikh member of parliament to wear a turban, confronted the newly elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson. Johnson is not only a lifelong bigot, but he represents a party that is growing in its open bigotry. And I want to play you this brilliant clip of Tan Dhesi confronting Prime Minister Boris Johnson right there in Parliament – maybe just 20 feet away from him.

(Plays clip)

First off, wow! What a powerful moment. And Boris Johnson is bound to be an absolutely horrible Prime Minister. He’s loathed across the country and could not win a General Election if he wanted to.

But what I want to teach you today is something that you might not have known. What Tan Dhesi just did right there on the floor of the British Parliament is actually against the rules of the House in the United States Congress.

The rules, now called the Jefferson Manual, which was originally written by Thomas Jefferson all the way back in 1801, govern the rules of speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. And those rules get voted on and updated regularly.

Let me read the actual rules to you right now:

(Reads rules from this tweet)

It’s true. And it’s outrageous. And it’s also quintessentially American — that a set of rules on the fair treatment of people was originally written by a man that owned human beings now dictate that you are not even allowed to call the specific actions of the President, or of another member of Congress, racist. It’s absurd. And it goes to prove the adage that conservatives hate being called racists more than they actually hate racism itself. How can we confront the thing which we cannot name. How can we address it if we cannot name it? It’s absurd.

Which brings me to our action step for today.

(Action Steps Music)

Today, we’re going to begin a campaign to let our congressmen and women know just how we feel about the ridiculousness of all of the rules in the Jefferson Manual and we simply want you to write and call them to let them know how they feel.

Google these words: Find Your Representative. The first link is what you click on. Once there, enter in your zip code, and it will take you directly to your page for your congressperson. And we want you to write and call them directly. If you can, tweet them as well.


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Produced by Willis Polk II