Republican Utah Rep. Burgess Owens flamed Democrats on Tuesday for comparing Georgia’s recently-instated election law to Jim Crow-era laws.
Owens detailed his experiences under Jim Crow laws in the 1960s while appearing as a witness during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights. He argued against the “disgusting and offensive” comparison, and told Democrats making the argument, “You know better.” (RELATED: ‘Brian Kemp Is A Liar’: Former GOP Rep. David Jolly Claims Georgia’s Governor Is Misleading People On Election Law)
Owens began by briefly describing his family’s history in the U.S., from his ancestors coming on a slave ship to Charleston, South Carolina, to his father’s military service and successful achievement of a Ph.D. despite the “actual Jim Crow Laws” that sought to deny him a post-graduate education. He then began talking about his personal experience, and said that as a child he grew up in an era of “actual legalized institutional racism” in the deep South, had his first experience with white people at 16 years old and now “proudly” serves in the U.S. Congress.
“I sit today before you as someone who has lived the American dream, as have millions of other Americans of all races from every background,” he continued. “But as someone who’s actually experienced Jim Crow laws, I’d like to set the record straight on the myths regarding the recently passed Georgia state law, and why any comparison between this law and Jim Crow is absolutely outrageous.”
He went on to say that he attended protests against segregation, went to a school that received second-hand books from a nearby school for white children and had to use a “filthy” restroom at service stations that were designated for “colored” people. He added that during that time, in addition to poll tax and literacy tests, “intimidation at the polls made it nearly impossible for black Americans to vote.”
“What I find extremely offensive is the narrative from the left that black people are not smart enough, not educated enough, not desirous enough for education to do what every other culture and race does in this country: get an I.D.” Owens said later in his testimony. “True racism is this projection of the Democratic Party on my proud race. It’s called the soft bigotry of low expectation.”
“President [Joe] Biden said of the Georgia law: ‘This is Jim Crow on steroids.’ With all due respect, Mr. President, you know better. It’s disgusting and offensive to compare the actual voter suppression and values of that era that we grew up in with a state law that only asks that people show their I.D. This is the type of fear-mongering I expect in the 1960s, not today,” he said, referring to criticism of the law from Biden and other Democrats.
Owens then argued that the Democratic Party “initiated” the intimidation of blacks by the Ku Klux Klan during the Jim Crow era, as well as segregation. He claimed that the “real tragedy” was now Democrats “not giving voice” to legal black Americans, and instead “increasing illegal votes.” He added that Americans expect to walk away from the voting booth knowing that they’re vote counted, and that if their side didn’t win, next time they would “work harder” to make sure their message resonates.
“To call this Jim Crow 2021 is an insult my friends. For those that never lived Jim Crow, we’re not in Jim Crow,” Owens concluded. “For black Americans to go out every single day and vote the way we feel we should is a right we should have, and not be demeaned by something 60 years ago, in which we had no right to do any of the above.”