New Hampshire Republican Claims That Owning Slaves Doesn’t Make A Person Racist

An empty legislative chambers.
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New Hampshire Republican Werner Horn is coming under fire this week after his controversial claim that owning slaves didn’t mean a person was racist, and that the institution of slavery in the United States was not connected to race.

The state representative made the claim in a Facebook post and repeated it across a number of media appearances. As USA Today noted, Werner and another Republican were offering a defense of Donald Trump against claims that he is racist. Dan Hynes, a former member of the New Hampshire state house, posed the question on Facebook: “If Trump is the most racist president in American history, what does that say about all of the other presidents who owned slaves?”

Werner offered an even more provocative response: “Wait, owning slaves doesn’t make you racist…”

The response has drawn widespread criticism, but Horn stood by his statement. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Horn said that slavery has been common throughout world history, and that the institution of American slavery, in which an estimated 600,000 slaves were transported from Africa to the United States, didn’t have anything to do with race.

“Human beings have been owning other human beings since the dawn of time. It’s never been about race,” Horn said.

He would later tell The Union Leader that slavery was an “economic reality” in the United States, and that there was no connection between slavery and racism.

“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,” Horn said. “The U.S. 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.”

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Donald Trump has come under bipartisan criticism after posting a series of tweets over the weekend aimed at four Democratic congresswomen of color, in which he told them to go back to their “original” countries. Three of the four were born in the United States, while the fourth is a naturalized citizen. Trump doubled down on his criticism and pushed back against accusations of racism, but the controversy only grew this week when supporters at his North Carolina rally chanted “Send her back!” when Trump lashed out at Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a black woman who emigrated to the United States from Somalia and has been critical of Trump.