A newly-elected Colorado state lawmaker was slammed for making a lynching joke and argued on the state House floor the Three-Fifths Compromise of 1787 "was not impugning anyone's humanity."
Ron Hanks, who represents Colorado House of Representatives District 60, made the statement while speaking on a bipartisan bill to strengthen civics education in Colorado schools.
Before taking the stand, Hanks was mistakenly introduced as Representative Mike Lynch, a fellow Colorado GOP lawmaker.
"Being called Mr. Lynch might be a good thing for what I'm about to say. Just kidding."
He then defended the Three-Fifths Compromise—an agreement reached during the 1787 United States Constitutional Convention stipulating that slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person when determining the state's total population.
During debate on Civics bill, GOP Rep. Ron Hanks brought up the 3/5ths compromise. He was initially called up as "R… https://t.co/oZNdHOjef8— Marshall Zelinger (@Marshall Zelinger) 1618513443.0
The Republican lawmaker praised the American system of government as "the best system of government in the world" before making the following statement.
"I don't think this is contentious but going back to the founding and going back to the three-fifths, I heard the comments and I appreciate them and respect them."
"But the three-fifths compromise of course was an effort by non-slave states to try to reduce the amount of representation that the slave states had. It was not impugning anyone's humanity."
In response to the opposition heard in the chamber, Hanks continued:
"Is this really racist to be talking about what the three-fifths compromise was? I don't think so."
"I think it's important. It's part of the civics lesson here. It was brought up and it merits discussion."
Twitter, however, strongly disagreed.
@Marshall9News Asserting that the 3/5ths Compromise, a deal allowing slave owners to treat slaves as humans only fo… https://t.co/zhj9wyvxNq— Eric Potyondy (@Eric Potyondy) 1618522773.0
@Marshall9News Calling someone 3/5th of a person is the literal definition of dehumanization.— parkernoelle (@parkernoelle) 1618541343.0
@Marshall9News It's contentious because morons who make lynching jokes also push a lying whitewashed version of the… https://t.co/qlSApmXLWe— Willing to discuss (@Willing to discuss) 1618515916.0
When 9 News' Next with Kyle Clark asked if Hanks was referring to lynching, the lawmaker responded in an email and said the question was:
"abhorrent and asinine, and it deserves no response, but because I'm sure you are objective in your reporting and a professional, I'll answer it as a courtesy. The answer is: NO. Listen to the audio."
@Marshall9News I believe it is the education of Rep. Hanks that needs strengthening— Lori Hvizda Ward (@Lori Hvizda Ward) 1618514395.0
Colorado Democrats were appalled by Hanks' comments on Thursday, including Shenika Carter—who is chair of the African Diaspora Initiative of the Colorado Democratic Party.
"To call the comments made by Mr. Hanks today disgusting and ignorant would be a gross understatement."
"For him to downplay the indisputable, historical fact that enslaved Black people were treated as less a person's worth both in law and in practice is offensive and beneath the dignity of our state legislature."
@Marshall9News The ignorance of racists on full view for the world to see.— Wanda L. James (@Wanda L. James) 1618541381.0
@Marshall9News Welcome to the continuation of Trump's #MonsterPolitics— @KnowYourWorth2021 (@@KnowYourWorth2021) 1618586315.0
@Marshall9News Ron "Lynch" Hanks shouldn't have brought up the 3/5ths compromise as a serious discussion. It has no… https://t.co/i2DNDDruT2— John Frump (@John Frump) 1618585278.0
Halisi Vinson, executive director of the Colorado Democratic Party, said Hanks was trying to "whitesplain the historical experience of Black people in our country."
"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."
This is not the first time Hanks was at the center of controversy. He was the sole Colorado lawmaker who participated in the U.S. Capitol insurrection on January 6, but claimed he left before the riot broke out.