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In emotional speech, Rep. Phillips says he didn't truly understand privilege until the Capitol riot

During the insurrection, he yelled to his colleagues to join the Republican side so they could blend in, only to realize that isn't an option for his colleagues of color.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misgendered Rep. Cori Bush, and identified her a member of the DFL Party. She is a Democrat. We apologize for the error.

A Minnesota representative is getting praise for his emotional speech on the U.S. House floor Thursday night in which he said he never truly understood privilege until Jan. 6, when pro-Trump supporters attempted an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. 

U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, DFL-Minnesota, recounted the events of Jan. 6 during an hour-long session led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DFL-New York, in which lawmakers were invited to share their personal experiences of the riot to preserve for the record what happened that day at a time when many Republicans are pushing for people to "move on."

Phillips, who represents Minnesota's Third Congressional District in the western Twin Cities suburbs, was in the House gallery with about 20 colleagues as Congress tallied the Electoral College vote certifying Joe Biden's victory over Donald Trump. 

He described the terror he felt not knowing if he'd ever see his family again, saying he thought being taken hostage would be the best-case scenario. He recalled the screams, sounds of breaking glass and looking for something to protect himself but "a pencil is about all we had."

"But I'm not here this evening to seek sympathy or just to tell my story, rather to make a public apology," Phillips said. "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."

He thought the insurrectionists would spare them if they mistook them for Republicans, he explained.

"But within moments I recognized that blending in was not an option available to my colleagues of color," he remarked. 

"So I'm here tonight," Phillips said while getting emotional, "to say to my brothers and sisters in Congress and all around our country, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. 

"For I have never understood – really understood – what privilege really means," he continued. "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."

He closed his speech by calling on his colleagues and people across the country to use what they experienced on Jan. 6, whether they were at the Capitol or watching it on TV, to "not allow that day to change you for the worse, rather please find something in it to improve yourself, to improve our country and to improve our world. I surely did and I hope you'll join me."

After his speech, Ocasio-Cortez thanked Phillips for his "extraordinarily powerful account" of what happened on Jan. 6. Phillips' comments quickly went viral, with people on social media thanking the second-term lawmaker for his candid words. Here's a sampling:

Several other Democrats spoke during the session. Rep. Cori Bush, the first Black woman to be a representative in Missouri, called on her colleagues to understand that white nationalists are a serious domestic threat, while others broke down in tears, The Associated Press reports.  

No Republicans participated, FOX News notes.

You can watch the entire hour-long session via C-Span here (and below). It starts at the 7-hour, 6-minute and 7-second mark.

Pew Research says the 117th Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse in U.S. history, but it's still largely white – non-Hispanic white Americans account for 77% of voting members in Congress, but only makeup 60% of the U.S. population overall. 

Pew says about one-fourth of Congress is non-white, saying 124 of the 532 seated lawmakers as of Jan. 26 identify as Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander or Native American. 

The overwhelming majority of non-white lawmakers are Democrats at 83%, while 17% are Republicans (an increase from the previous Congress when 10% of non-white lawmakers were GOPers), Pew says. 

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