The XX Factor

Rep. Steve King Tries, Fails to Unite America by Keeping Harriet Tubman Off the $20 Bill

Rep. Steve King, here in April 2015 in Nashua, New Hampshire, couldn’t protect America from lawnmower spouses, and he couldn’t protect us from a woman of color appearing on our money.

Darren McCollester/Getty Images

America has cleared the second major hurdle in its quest to get a woman on U.S. paper currency. First, earlier this year, Hamilton fans looked like they might derail the effort to put a woman on the $10 for the sake of the “ten-dollar Founding Father.” Fortunately, current secretary Jack Lew, who’s a bit #Ham4Ham himself, opted to leave the Broadway muse on the $10 and put American hero Harriet Tubman on the $20 instead, relegating genocidal slave-owner Andrew Jackson to the back of the bill.

Then, this week, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) proposed a Congressional challenge to Tubman’s rightful place of honor, filing an amendment to a Treasury Department funding bill that would have forbidden officials from altering currency to include Tubman’s image. On Tuesday night, the Rules Committee blocked King’s amendment from reaching the floor of Congress.

King has a distinguished history of standing up for America’s racist, sexist, homophobic status quo. In 2013, he declared in horror that immigrants from Latin America have “calves the size of cantaloupes” from hauling kilos of weed across the border. After the Supreme Court affirmed the right to equal marriage across the country in Obergefell v. Hodges last year, King worried that people might choose to wed their lawnmowers instead of other humans.

This congressman has a gift for using vivid imagery to strike fear into the hearts of lawful Americans, who are just trying to protect their families from neighbors with melon-sized legs and spouses with whirring-blade genitals. In his war on Tubman, King found no such analogy of fruit or yard machinery to make his point, but he did say it was “racist” and “sexist” (against white people and men, presumably) to suggest that a woman of color deserved to be on paper currency in part because of the extraordinary demographic imbalance in our current set of bills. King blamed Barack Obama for America’s brand new tendency to “identify people by categories,” a hallmark of contemporary “liberal activism” and definitely not a tradition baked into the very foundation of America, proud home of Jim Crow laws and, uh, slavery.

Donald Trump has also decried the idea of Tubman on the $20 as “pure political correctness,” suggesting that Tubman belongs on the $2 bill, which is no longer in print. A white, xenophobic man trying to subjugate the memory of a former slave and radical abolitionist for the sake of honoring another white, xenophobic man is an image so American, it almost deserves its own illustration on U.S. currency.

Politico reports that King pulled out an actual $20 bill to emphasize his argument by pointing at Jackson. “It’s not about Harriet Tubman, it’s about keeping the picture on the $20,” he said. “Y’know? Why would you want to change that? I am a conservative—I like to keep what we have.” King called the push for Tubman “divisive,” while his amendment is “unifying” because “it says just don’t change anything.” For members of a floundering political party whose presidential nominee thinks honoring the anti-slavery movement is just PC hogwash, “just don’t change anything” is a perfect motto.