Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) on Tuesday shamed President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party for their "absolutely outrageous" comparison of Georgia's new election law to Jim Crow laws of the old segregationist South.
"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 KKK, Jim Crow, and segregation," Owens testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "As someone who has 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."
The congressman was a witness for the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on voting rights titled, "Jim Crow 2021: The Latest Assault on the Right to Vote." The hearing also featured failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams — who continues to falsely assert that the 2018 gubernatorial election was stolen — Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill, each of whom asserted that the Georgia law is part of an ongoing assault by Republicans on the right of black Americans to vote.
Owens strongly disagreed and used his testimony to dispel the idea that Georgia's law is racist or in any way, shape, or form reminiscent of Jim Crow laws.
He told the committee that when he was a child, his father allowed him to join a protest outside a segregated theater where black people were not allowed to enter. He described segregated service stations with restrooms designated for white men, white women, and "colored" people. Owens also referred to Jim Crow laws like poll taxes, property tests, literacy tests, and "violence and intimidation at the polls" that "made it nearly impossible for black Americans to vote" as part of his lived experience.
In contrast, Owens said Georgia's election law simply establishes a new requirement for a person voting absentee to provide a form of voter identification. This requirement, "which has brought so much outrage from the left," is met with an ID card, bank statement, paycheck, government check, utility bill, or any other government documentation with a voter's name and address, Owens explained. He also pointed out that 97% of Georgia voters already have ID and noted that even if voters fail to provide one of those documents, they may still fill out provisional ballots.
"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 ID," declared Owens.
"True racism is this: It's the projection of the Democratic Party on my proud race. It's called the soft bigotry of low expectations," he continued.
"President Biden said of the Georgia law, 'This is Jim Crow on steroids.' With all due respect, Mr. President, you know better. 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."
Owens accused Democrats of "fearmongering" about Georgia's law and reminded the committee that Jim Crow laws and Ku Klux Klan violence were "initiated by the Democratic Party."
"To call this Jim Crow 2021 is an insult, my friends," he said. "For those who never lived Jim Crow, we are not in Jim Crow."
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