POLITICS

New Hampshire Lawmaker: 'Owning Slaves Doesn't Make You Racist'

GOP state Rep. Werner Horn told HuffPost that human beings have always owned other human beings, and "it's never been about race."

New Hampshire state Rep. Werner Horn (R) doesn’t think American slavery was racist, a position he posted on Facebook and reiterated to HuffPost. 

“Human beings have been owning other human beings since the dawn of time. It’s never been about race,” Horn told HuffPost on Thursday when asked to comment on his recent remarks.

Horn’s thoughts on slavery are in the spotlight this week after the New Hampshire Union Leader reported on his Facebook comment that “owning slaves doesn’t make you racist.” 

The conversation started when former state House member Dan Hynes (R) wrote a post chastising HuffPost for reporting that a historian had classified Trump as tied for the most racist president in American history. 

“[W]hat does that say about all of the other presidents who owned slaves?” wrote Hynes.

“Wait, owning slaves doesn’t make you racist…,” Horn replied to Hynes. 

Hynes told HuffPost in an email that his response to Horn’s Facebook post was intended to be sarcastic and shouldn’t be cast as “support for either slavery or racism.” He has since taken down his comment.

Horn doubled down on this position to HuffPost while clarifying that he believed “slavery’s not OK.”

“It’s never OK to own another person. But to label the institution as racist is a false narrative,” he told HuffPost on Thursday, saying intent mattered when making that determination. 

According to Horn, slave masters didn’t consider race at the auction block but instead were making “an economic decision” and purchasing who was available. When you look back at auction inventory lists, Horn said, there aren’t “white names,” or “Native American” or “Hispanic” names. (He later clarified by adding, “I should’ve said European instead of white, but I’m a little less PC than normal people.”)

There are some head-scratching comments coming out of the New Hampshire Statehouse.
There are some head-scratching comments coming out of the New Hampshire Statehouse.

And, Horn continued, women and children cost less than male slaves, so does that mean they were being discriminated against? “Unless you’re going to try to tell me those plantation owners were so in the dark ages that they delighted in being also sexist and ageist — practicing age discrimination and sex discrimination when they bought slaves — I don’t see how you can say they’re being racist because they bought black slaves.”

Essentially, Horn claimed slave masters were mostly motivated by economics — and that meant they weren’t discriminatory.

“My comment specifically was aimed at a period of time when that was how you survived, that’s how you fed your family,” Horn added. “It wasn’t ‘I want to own a black person today.’ It was, ’I need to feed my family; I need five guys who can work stupidly long hours in the sun without killing themselves.”

It is estimated that millions of black enslaved people died during passage or under the abuses of the inhumane American institution of slavery.   

New Hampshire Republican State Committee Chairman Stephen Stepanek condemned Horn’s comments in an email to HuffPost on Thursday, saying, “Representative Horn is wrong and his comments are not based in our platform’s belief in free people, free markets and free enterprise. Slavery throughout its history in the United States was a racist, inhuman, and immoral practice.”

Horn also weighed in on President Donald Trump’s comments suggesting four congresswomen of color should “go back [to the] places from which they came” to be “rude” and “inaccurate” but not “racist.”

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Ray Buckley criticized Gov. Chris Sununu (R) for refusing to condemn Trump’s racist rhetoric targeting the Democratic congresswomen, saying that silence “has sanctioned this kind of behavior from his Republican Party and has permitted comments like these with impunity.” 

Sununu didn’t condemn Trump’s remarks, although he criticized the “toxic” rhetoric “coming out of Washington, D.C.”

This article has been updated to include a comment from Hynes.

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