On Tuesday, Senate Democrats held a hearing to condemn election integrity efforts that they characterized as “Jim Crow 2021.” Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) testified at the hearing, and he ripped the Democrats’ argument to shreds. Owens grew up in the age of Jim Crow, so he knows the evils of segregation first-hand. He contrasted the true racism of that era with the absurd complaints Democrats raise against the Georgia election integrity law. He also exposed the true racism at play in this debate: the bigotry of low expectations.
“As someone who has actually experienced Jim Crow laws, I would 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,” Owens declared.
He briefly told his family’s story, beginning with his great-great grandfather Sals Burgess, who came to America “shackled in the belly of a slave ship” but who escaped to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Both Owens’ grandfather and his father served in the military in World War I and World War II, respectively. When his father returned home after the war, “actual Jim Crow laws denied him a post-graduate education. Raised in a generation that used this as motivation, he received his Ph.D. in agronomy at Ohio State University and had a successful career as a professor, researcher, and entrepreneur.”
“I grew up in the era of actual, legalized institutional racism. I grew up in the Deep South in Tallahassee Florida in the 1960s during the days of the KKK, Jim Crow, and segregation,” Owens explained. He became the third black athlete to ever receive a scholarship to play football at the University of Miami. He went on to play in the NFL, found businesses, and serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“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. This is due to our country’s mission statement that all men and women are created equal,” Owens said.
He gave examples from his own life to illustrate “what Jim Crow laws actually looked like” and explained why the Georgia law is absolutely nothing like Jim Crow.
“At the age of 12, my father allowed me to participate in a demonstration with college students in front of the segregated Florida state theater, where because of our color, we could not enter. I was the youngest participant there,” he recalled. “In the seventh grade, my school never received new books. Instead, we received books from the all-white school across town.”
“At service stations, there were white-men-only restrooms, white-women-only restrooms, and a filthy restroom in the back of the restroom for black Americans designated as ‘colored.’ In addition, Jim Crow laws like poll tax, property tests, literacy tests, and biased intimidation at the polls made it nearly impossible for black Americans to vote,” Owens said.
He then turned to the Georgia law, which President Joe Biden called “Jim Crow on steroids.”
“The section of the Georgia law that has brought so much outrage from the Left simply requires any person applying for an absentee ballot to include evidence of a government-issued ID on their application,” Owens explained. “If a voter does not have a driver’s license or ID card, that voter can use a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or any other government document that shows a name and address of this voter. If a voter somehow cannot produce one of these above forms of ID, that voter can still vote and cast a vote through a provisional ballot.”
“By the way, 97 percent of Georgia voters already have a government-issued ID,” he added.
Owens explained that Democrats do not do black people a favor by suggesting these laws target black voters.
“What I find extremely offensive is the narrative from the Left that black people are not smart enough, not educated enough, not desirous enough of education to do what every other culture and race does in this country, get an ID,” Owens declared.
“True racism is this: It’s a projection of the Democratic Party on my proud race. It’s called the soft bigotry of low expectations,” he explained.
Owens excoriated Biden for calling the Georgia law “Jim Crow on steroids.”
“With all due respect, Mr. President, you know better,” he said. “It is disgusting and offensive to compare the actual voter suppression and violence of that era that we grew up in with a state law that only asks that people show their ID. This is the type of fear mongering I expect in the 1960s, not today.”
“And, by the way, literacy tests and poll tests were initiated by the Democratic Party. The intimidation of black Americans by the KKK was initiated by the Democratic Party. Jim Crow that I grew up in in the South of segregation was initiated by the Democratic Party,” Owens continued. “The soft bigotry of low expectations now projected on black Americans — not Italians, not Asians, not Polish, not Jewish, but only black Americans — is being done by the Democratic Party.”
He noted that “black misery thrives and is prevalent” in areas controlled by Democrats where black American suffer due to “lack of education, lack of jobs, high crimes, [and] the call for defunding the police.”
“We’re seeing 18 percent of black men turn away from the Democratic Party because they’re seeing that their vote can count and their future can matter,” Owens said. He noted that black women, Hispanics, Asians, and members of the gay community also moved away from Democrats in the 2020 election.
Owens said black Americans should be able to expect “fairness, security, [and] to walk away from the poll booth knowing that my vote counted. If we didn’t win, we work harder next time to make sure our message resonates.”
“But to call this Jim Crow 2021 is an insult, my friends. For those who never lived Jim Crow, we are not in Jim Crow,” he insisted.
Earlier this month, Georgia State Rep. Wes Cantrell pointed out that Georgia’s voting laws are far more relaxed than the laws in Biden’s home state of Delaware. Yet the narrative that Georgia’s law is “un-American” or “Jim Crow on steroids” has led CEOs to condemn the law and Major League Baseball to move the All-Star Game out of the state, costing the state an estimated $100 million.
Burgess Owens’ remarks are extremely important to combat the false narrative. Let’s hope CEOs and the MLB are listening.