A Colorado Republican made a joke about lynching before defending a provision counting enslaved Africans as only three-fifths of a human being. In a debate about strengthening civic education in the Centennial State.
Mistaken for another Republican, Rep. Mike Lynch, before taking the floor, State Rep. Ron Hanks joked that might be the right name for what he’s about to say.
“Being called Mr. Lynch might be a good thing for what I’m about to say … no, just kidding,” Hanks said.
With his entire chest, Hanks said the three-fifths compromise did not undermine the humanity of enslaved Africans. Hanks claimed he was just trying to respond to a statement made by a Democratic colleague.
But his comments about the three-fifths clause being only about representation lack historical context. Claiming it had nothing to do with the humanity of people relegated to the status of legal property is also intellectually dishonest.
“It was not impugning anybody’s humanity,” Hanks said during the floor debate. “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.”
Southern delegates wanted enslaved people counted as a full person people for representation and taxation purposes only. But human beings were treated as chattel property in every other way.
As a compromise, slave-holding states were allowed to count a portion of the enslaved population. Even more so, it gave slave-holding states greater electoral power.
While the original text provided for those “bound to service for a term of years” to be counted as three-fifths a whole person, the framers ignored the indefinite nature of slavery. And it laid the ground for stealing land from Indigenous people who existed on this land long before the settlers arrived.
Permitting enslaved Africans to be considered in counts for political representation gave slave-holding states outsized influence for generations.
Hanks comments also reflect a continuous effort to distort history and minimize the harm and trauma to non-white people. Bills introduced earlier this year sought to change how social justice issues were taught, if at all.
Some efforts specifically prevented the use of the New York Times’ 1619 Project in public schools. Other proposals attempted to constrain how and what teachers could say about racism, white supremacy and social justice issues.
Hanks isn’t well known for his candor. He was among those who marched from former President Donald Trump’s January 6 rally to the U.S. Capitol before it was stormed. He also claimed in a fundraising email that Antifa members, not Trump supporters, were responsible for the violence at the Capitol.