Lawmaker Argues that Owning Slaves Does Not Make You Racist

A New Hampshire Republican claimed in a Facebook comment that owning slaves does not make a person a racist. State Representative Werner Horn was responding to a post by former state Senate candidate Dan Hynes to defend President Donald Trump’s racist comments.

“This is why no one believes the media. If Trump is the most racist President in American history, what does that say about all of the other Presidents who owned slaves,” Hynes wrote, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader. “Wait, owning slaves doesn’t make you racist,” Horn replied to Hynes’ post. Hynes responded in his since-deleted post that he guessed enslaving people did not make you a racist, adding, “Which is surprising since everything else makes someone a racist. I have been called a racist plenty of times by Democrats.” Horn continued, “It shouldn’t be surprising since owning slaves wasn’t a decision predicated on race but on economics. It’s a business decision.”

The three-term state representative stood by his statements in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader. Horn noted that people have been enslaving others since the beginning of time.

“Slavery later on in the American South was not about the color of the skin of the slaves but their value as workers on the plantations,” he maintained. “The US had abolitionists since the start, people who felt slavery wasn’t moral but they weren’t enslaving Black people because they were Black. They were bringing in these folks because they were available.”

Horn called the enslavement of millions of Black people “an economic reality.” Unlike his fellow Republican colleague, Hynes backed away from the initial interaction and said he “fully” believes that slavery in the US was about race. In a post published on Facebook on July 18, Hynes claimed his comment was “clearly sarcastic” and said he did not want people to use his comments “as the basis for support of either slavery or racism.”

During a phone interview with The North Star, Hynes said he thinks the language he used led people to believe he thought race didn’t play a role in the enslavement of Black people in the United States. Hynes said he reached out to reporters to clarify and opted to remove the initial post because he does not “want to be associated with people advocating for either racism or people advocating that slavery wasn’t in fact racism.” Hynes told The North Star that he does stand by his initial statement that Trump is not the most racist president in US history. He said that Trump’s comments telling four congresswomen of color to “go back” to their countries was not “necessarily racist” but he did find it to be xenophobic. Hynes said that he believes the president would make the same comments if there was a white politician who he completely disagrees with because he “attacks pretty much everyone of every race.” He acknowledged that Trump’s racist remarks did have “racial undertones.”

He went on to apologize for his use of sarcastic language in his initial interaction with Horn. “I just want to make it very clear that I do believe slavery in the US was one of the worst forms of racism we’ve ever had.”

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley blasted the Republican Party for the comments made by Horn.

“[Gov. Chris] Sununu’s silence on Trump’s racism has sanctioned this kind of behavior from his Republican Party and has permitted comments like these with impunity,” Buckley told the New Hampshire Union Leader. “It’s disgusting.”

Horn’s remarks were also rebuked by New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairman Stephen Stepanek. “Representative Horn is wrong and his comments are not based in our platform’s belief in free people, free markets, and free enterprise,” Stephanek told HuffPost. “Slavery throughout its history in the United States was a racist, inhuman, and immoral practice.” On July 16, the US House of Representatives voted to condemn President Trump’s attacks on the four congresswomen of color as racist. All House Democrats, four Republicans and the House’s only independent, Justin Amash (I-Mich.), voted to condemn the president, The New York Times reported.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.