Before Byron Donalds became a congressman, he worked in banking and insurance and was a Florida state representative. Growing up, he says he was an apolitical registered Democrat. But the party’s promises of individual liberty and conservatism made him want to be a Republican.
“I believe that if you have a system of government, which we mostly have in the United States, where most issues actually stay at the local and state levels and at the federal level, we deal with the things that, frankly, states can’t do on their own,” Donalds said in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
During the campaign and as a congressman, Donalds has held controversial views on Covid-19 safety protocols — not getting the vaccine or wearing a mask when we met up. He contracted Covid-19 last October.
A rising star in the party and one of two Black Republicans in the U.S. House, Donalds says he doesn’t believe that systemic racism exists. “One hundred years ago, if you had told me there was systemic racism in the United States, I would’ve said absolutely there was,” Donalds said. “Systemic and institutionalized racism today in the United States. No, no.”
I pushed back, pointing to the numbers on how the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated existing gaps between Black Americans and their white counterparts: from healthcare to the racial wealth gap, which has increased for decades.
Quite a bit of the conversation was about the former President Trump’s false claims that there was mass voter fraud in the 2020 election. To be honest, that part of the conversations is better if you just watch it.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this report misstated the history of Florida’s representation in Congress. Byron Donalds is the third Black Republican from Florida.