Rep. Burgess Owens: Biden agenda doesn’t represent MLK’s hopes, ‘dreams’

Rep. Burgess Owens: Biden agenda doesn’t represent MLK’s hopes, ‘dreams’

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Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, remembered the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a leader who commanded respect and preached unity, and criticized the Biden Administration for invoking the late civil rights leader to pass “demeaning” voting laws.

Owens took issue with Democrats’ voting rights legislation that, among other provisions, would water down voter ID requirements that states have passed. The freshman lawmaker said Democrats’ assumption that ID requirements would especially hurt Black communities is disrespectful. 

“Black Americans, just like Italian Americans or Polish Americans, all we want is fairness,” Owens told Fox News Digital. “We want to know that our vote counts.  To say that we’re the only race of the whole country… that if we have to get an ID that we cannot pull it off – I cannot articulate how demeaning that thought process is.

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“Sadly we have too many Black people that go along with it,” Owens continued. “They’d rather have power for themselves than to empower our race.”

Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Bill Clark/Pool via AP)

Rep. Burgess Owens, R-Utah, speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Bill Clark/Pool via AP)

Owens, 70, grew up near Tallahassee, where his dad was a professor of agriculture at Florida A&M, a historically Black university. King represented the type of pride of his father’s generation where they “commanded respect,” Owens said.

Growing up in the days of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan, Owens said he had no interaction with White Americans until he was 16 years old. Despite segregation, Owens talks fondly of how his Black neighborhood in the 1960s distinguished itself by building a proud middle class and business community because of an entrepreneurial spirit. 

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Owens said he marched in protest of segregation when he was just 12 years old in Florida. He marvels at how the King-inspired protesters of that era dressed nicely, were disciplined in their message and were uplifting. 

Today’s Black Lives Matter activists are far different, he said. “They’re angry. They don’t build, they destroy. They don’t unify, they divide. It’s a totally different strategy. And it’s unfortunate,” Owens said.

King “was not about dividing us. He was about unifying us. And it was because, at the end of the day, his source was God.”

Biden invoked King during a heated speech in Atlanta Tuesday where he pressed lawmakers to pass voting rights legislation and implied those who were against the bills were on the side of racists. 

“Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?” Biden said Tuesday. “Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris walk off stage after speaking in support of changing the Senate filibuster rules that have stalled voting rights legislation, at Atlanta University Center Consortium, on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris walk off stage after speaking in support of changing the Senate filibuster rules that have stalled voting rights legislation, at Atlanta University Center Consortium, on the grounds of Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Some members of King’s family have been pushing hard to pass Biden’s federal voting rights legislation. Martin Luther King III; his wife, Arndrea Waters King; and their daughter Yolanda Renee King, 13, took part Saturday in an on-the-ground campaign for voting rights in Phoenix. Ahead of the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, they marched with local activists to speak about the importance of “no celebration without legislation.”

“Our daughter has less rights around voting than she had when she was born,” King, the civil rights leader’s oldest son, said in an interview with the Associated Press. “I can’t imagine what my mother and father would say about that. I’m sure they’re turning over and over in their graves about this.”

Arizona is one of 19 states that have passed over 30 state voting laws in the last year — including a ban on giving water to voters in long lines, and stricter ballot signature requirements — that King called “draconian.” They make it harder for people to vote, especially people of color, he said.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is seen during an event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the memorial in Washington, U.S., October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is seen during an event to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the memorial in Washington, U.S., October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis (Reuters)

Owens, however, takes a different view on the Democrats’ voting rights bills and overall agenda.

He said he feels “blessed” to grow up in the period of King to see how Black communities stood for self-sufficiency, respect and equality. He said Biden and the Democratic Party today see the Black Americans as “hopeless, hapless, and waiting for somebody to take care of us. Totally two different views of the same race.”

As the nation honors King on the federal holiday, Owens hopes more people will move away from the politics of division. 

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King “was articulate. He was brave. He was bold. He was respectful. He could persuade people to listen to him. That was the Black community and that was our dreams and hopes at that time,” Owens said. 

“That is not the dreams and hopes of the Biden Administration. Look at everything they do and the policy they put together. It’s demeaning. It’s divisive. 

“At the end of the day, you have more Black people hating people today than they did when Martin Luther King was around,” Owens said. “They are being trained to hate other people based on their race. Martin Luther King was saying, let’s come together regardless of race.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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