Black Americans Are 'Glad Their Ancestors Were Brought Here as Slaves,' Says North Dakota Legislator

Rep. Terry B.Jones (R-New Town)
Rep. Terry B.Jones (R-New Town)
Photo: Legis.ND.gov

In today’s episode of White People Who Can’t Even Be Anti-Race Without Being Racist, a North Dakota lawmaker has introduced a bill that would require agencies to list “American” as a race option on official government documents. It’s a ridiculous proposal that has all the hallmarks of fragile white people taking an “I don’t see color” approach to discussing racism in America, but this legislator managed to make his closeted bigotry even more apparent by saying that Black Americans are “glad their ancestors were brought here as slaves”

Advertisement

InForum reports that the bill proposed by Rep. Terry Jones (R-New Town), House Bill 1333, would mandate that state agencies list “American” as the first option on any form that asks for racial classification. So, before we get into Jones’ claim that Black people are happy our ancestors were owned as property because now we’re free-ish and breathing up all of this sweet American air, let’s talk about the bill itself.

From InForum:

Jones, R-New Town, said he is “disgusted” with how race is used by bad actors to divide the country and that his legislation would help unify Americans under a shared identity.

He added that he’s trying to get national politicians on board with the classification change, but first, lawmakers in North Dakota will consider the bill. House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, said he had not yet read Jones’ bill and could not comment on its merits.

Jones said the American nationality qualifies as a race under a definition he gave as “a group of people that has lived under common laws for mutual benefits.”

Democratic Fargo Rep. Gretchen Dobervich, who said she has experience working with demographics, called Jones’ attempt to characterize “American” as a race “incorrect.” She noted that his logic wouldn’t be recognized by academics or the federal government — the U.S. Census does not allow residents to mark the nationality as their race.

Dobervich also criticized Jones’ bill as oversimplifying the nation’s troubled past with race, adding “there’s nothing healing about this.”

“I don’t think (the bill) is meant to be racist, but the optics are not good,” Dobervich said.

Yeah, so Dobervich and I disagree on one thing: This bill is racist AF.

To be clear, I don’t give a shit if some people of color decide they’re American first and that they don’t want to check the race box; that’s their business. But make no mistake: Whenever white people want to eliminate racial identity in America, it’s because they understand that whiteness is the default. Jones can talk all day about how “disgusted” he is about the divisiveness of race, but white conservatives only want racial unity under the condition that all races unite under traditional American values, aka whiteness. His comment on slavery makes his true sentiments even more clear.

More from InForum:

Jones said his proposal acknowledges America’s history with race, but it focuses on commonalities rather than differences.

He added that citizens of all backgrounds are proud to be American, saying of Black Americans, “they’re glad their ancestors were brought here as slaves.”

Jones said he believes in this sentiment because he read a Reader’s Digest article from the 1980s in which a Black doctor visited an African country during a period of civil conflict and made remarks about being grateful that his ancestors had been taken to America. Forum News Service’s attempts to find the article were unsuccessful.

Advertisement

Even if it’s true that Jones read one article from decades ago in which one Black American who visited one of Africa’s 54 countries at a time of conflict and decided, “Damn, them auction blocks don’t seem so bad,” how is that proof that Black people, in general, are happy as hell that our ancestors got to pick white people’s cotton and endure the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade? This is basically “I don’t see color,” and “I have a Black friend” all in one fell caucasity-filled swoop. Jones is just one in a long list of white conservatives who will dismiss the testimonies and lived experiences of millions of Black Americans in favor of whichever negro is saying the thing he wants to be true—especially if that thing is an expression of gratefulness for American racism.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

DISCUSSION

amessagetorudy
BedandBreakfastMan

This hoary old trope. Look, any benefits black Americans have here over their relatives In African Is largely DESPITE white people, not because of them.