In a hearing at the Senate Judiciary Committee, Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT) lambasted Democrats for comparing Georgia's new voting legislation to the racist segregationist Jim Crow laws which once dominated the Southern United States.
Owens began by discussing the story of his great great grandfather, who came to America on a slave ship when he was just a child.
"He escaped on the underground railroad, and later became a successful entrepreneur," Owens said, "purchasing 102 acres of farmland paid off in two years."
"My father, Clarence Burgess Owens Sr., was stationed in the Philippines at the end of World War II. When he returned home to Texas, actual Jim Crow laws denied him postgraduate education. Raised in a generation that used this as motivation, he received his PhD 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 KKK, Jim Crow, and segregation," Owens continued, noting that he did not have any experiences with white Americans until he was 16 years old, and has since risen to become a Congressman.
"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."
Owens gave examples from his own life to demonstrate the viciousness of Jim Crow, describing an incident when he was allowed to participate in a protest at the then-segregated Florida State Theater. "Only 50 years later did I learn that my father parked across the street to watch and make sure I was safe," he said.
He described black people being forced to use segregated facilities, often ones which were much dirtier and less well-kept than white facilities. He also pointed to multiple laws including literacy tests and poll taxes which "made it nearly impossible for black Americans to vote."
The Georgia law, "simply requires any person applying for an absentee ballot to include evidence of a government-issued ID on their application," Owens said. "If a voter does not have a driver's license or an ID card, that voter can use a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or any other government document that shows the name and address of this voter. If a voter somehow cannot produce one of these forms of ID, that voter can still vote and cast a provisional ballot."
Owens also pointed out that 97 percent of voters in Georgia already have a government-issued ID.
"What I find extremely offensive is the narrative from the left that black people are not smart enough, not educated enough... to do what every other culture and race does in this country: get an ID," Owens said.
Owens then accused the Democratic Party of harboring the "soft bigotry of low expectations," a phrase often used to describe the infantilization of minority voters.
"President Biden said of the Georgia law, 'this is Jim Crow on steroids.' With all do 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 went on to note that the KKK, Jim Crow laws, and other racist afflictions on black Americans until the 1960s were spearheaded by Democrats, comparing it to the alleged modern-day racism of the "soft bigotry of low expectations."
He then accused Democrats of promoting policies which harm black communities, such as defunding the police. He also suggested that Democrats enable illegal aliens to illegally cast ballots in elections, diluting the voting power of black Americans.
"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 finished.