Colorado Democrats are calling out a tone-deaf Republican who joked about lynching and justified thinking of Black people as three-fifths of a person.
On Thursday, State Rep. Ron Hank took to the House floor to speak about civic education but was mistakenly introduced as fellow Rep. Mike Lynch, ABC News reported.
In response, Hank thought it was a perfect opportunity to segue using Lynch’s name to discuss Black history.
“Being called Mr. Lynch might be a good thing for what I’m about to say. No, just kidding,” Hanks said.
The joke did not go well among his peers.
Things became even more awkward for Hanks as he tried to justify why the Three-Fifths Compromise, a compromise reached among state delegates during the 1787 Constitutional Convention due to disputes over how slaves would be counted when determining a state’s total population, was just legislation and was not racist.
“It was not impugning anybody’s humanity,” Hanks said. “Is this really racist to be talking about what the Three-Fifths Compromise was? I don’t think so, and I think it’s important. It’s part of the civics lesson here. It was brought up, and it merits discussion.”
The state rep. further explained that the Northern states added the compromise to dwarf the representation in the South because those states had too many slaves and could dominate Congress.
“It took a war to do it. It took 600,000 American lives. It took a lot of treasure. That’s the kind of thing that ought to be taught,” Hanks said. Colorado Democratic Party Executive Director Halisi Vinson said Hanks was trying to “whitesplain the historical experience of Black people.”
“The fact that Representative Hanks thought it would be appropriate to make a ‘joke’ about lynching — especially at a time when we’re seeing a rise of racially motivated assaults on people of color across our country — is utterly despicable,” Vinson said.
The African Diaspora Initiative of the Colorado Democratic Party, Chair Shenika Carter, said Hank’s comments were, “disgusting and ignorant would be a gross understatement.”
“For him to downplay the indisputable, historical fact that enslaved Black people were treated less a person’s worth both in law and in practice is offensive and beneath the dignity of our state legislature,” Carter said.
Hank doubled down on his position, saying that the Three-Fifths Compromise is a civic lesson based on history with systematic racism involved, saying “the three-fifths issue is long settled.”