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Rep. Phillips says he did not truly understand white privilege until the Capitol riot

Rep. Dean PhillipsDean PhillipsDemocrat Rita Hart withdraws challenge in Iowa House race Pelosi downplays concerns from moderates about reviewing contested Iowa race Moderate Democrats warn leaders against meddling in Iowa race MORE (D-Minn.) gave an emotional address on the House floor Thursday evening, saying he had not fully understood privilege until the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Addressing the House, Phillips recounted the events of Jan. 6, recalling that lawmakers had looked for objects to defend themselves when the Capitol was breached and realized “a pencil is about all we had.”

“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.”

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Vox reporter Aaron Rupar shared video of Phillips's address.

Phillips explained that he believed he and his colleagues would be safe from the rioters if they were mistaken for Republican lawmakers. However, he said that he realized that blending in was not a viable option for lawmakers of color.

“So I'm here tonight to say to my brothers and sisters in Congress, and all around our country. I'm sorry. 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,” said Phillips.

The 117th Congress is the most racially diverse in U.S. history, Pew Research notes. However, the Congress as a whole still remains largely white. Of the 535 members of the U.S. Congress, 128 are non-white, accounting for roughly a fourth of its members. Twenty members of the House GOP identify as people of color, compared to 107 Democratic members. Del. Gregorio Sablan of the Northern Mariana Islands is the only independent lawmaker of color.