A Tennessee Republican lawmaker cited himself as an example to show why the mostly white and male state legislature was more diverse than it might appear.
State Rep. Roger Kane (R-Knoxville) drew laughter Saturday during the annual legislative luncheon for the East Tennessee Society for Professional Journalists, where reporters and lawmakers discussed diversity in the state, reported the Nashville Scene.
“Women have actually gone down and minorities have gone up,” Kane said, describing enrollment at the University of Tennessee. “Well, that’s just trading spaces. It’s really not creating diversity.”
Kane continued despite some laughter from other participants, describing the 12-person panel — made up of 10 white men, one white woman state senator and a black man state representative — at the luncheon as diverse.
“You see me as a white, middle-aged man,” Kane said, as participants continued laughing. “But my mother’s Jewish, my father’s Catholic, and I’m a Baptist. Does that not make diversity?”
Kane said he’d grown up in a Texas city that boasted large Chinese, Vietnamese, gay and black populations.
“I grew up in Houston, probably one of the most diverse towns you will ever see, and that’s the school I went to,” Kane said. “Does that not add to my diversity? But you see me as a white, middle-aged man, that’s all you see. But we’re so much more than that.”
Kane described a hypothetical applicant to the university’s diversity office, which the legislature defunded last year, and complained that this fictional student had defined herself only as a lesbian Filipina.
“She’s forgotten all the other benefits she is,” Kane said. “She’s a woman, she’s college-educated, she’s funny, she has black hair — those are all diversity things. She had forgotten all of those things because in her strive to be diverse, she had honed in on two things, and that’s it.”
Watch the lawmaker’s comments beginning at the 23-minute mark: