One Virginia city council member is facing backlash after making remarks that it was the work of God that freed the slaves.
It was during a Tuesday meeting wherein citizens urged the council to approve a Leesburg Diversity Commission that council member Thomas Dunn decided to make his controversial comment, the National Post reports.
Present at the meeting was Phillip Thompson, the president of the Loudon County branch of the NAACP.
Thompson argued for the Commission, saying that if the U.S. government had not helped with the civil rights cause, he would still be "in the fields picking cotton."
It was after this remark that Dunn made his comment.
“Shame on you, Mr. Thompson, for throwing slavery into this discussion,” Dunn said via telephone in the meeting. “There are people who feel that ... government is supposed to be the answer to everything, and Mr. Thompson, I don’t believe that government freed our slaves we had in this country. That was an evil that this country had. It was the hand of God touching the hearts of man that freed those slaves.”
Continuing, he went on to say, “Jesus said, ‘I give you one commandment, and that is to love one another.’ He could have said, ‘go out and create a diversity commission,’ but he didn’t."
As a lawyer, Thompson told reporters that the statement by Dunn was not only inaccurate but wholly offensive.
“I’m an attorney, and this is basic constitutional law: The 13th Amendment ended slavery,” Thompson told reporters. “I thought it was just a callous, dismissive remark on his part. ... If you disagree [with the diversity commission], we can discuss our disagreement. But when you try to take it to this high level and dismiss it based on ‘God will fix it,’ that’s just being disingenuous and not constructive at all.”
Overall, Thompson believes that government intervention was and still is an integral part of the civil rights movement.
“The bottom line is that most, if not all, civil rights matters that have been handled in this country have been handled by government action,” Thompson said to reporters at the Washington Post Friday. “I went a little over the top on it, but I used the analogy that if the government hadn’t intervened, I would still be a slave in the field picking cotton. Government had to act, or I wouldn’t be here.”
At the center of the controversy is the Leesburg Diversity Commission, a citizen-led organization that would meet monthly in order to help improve relations and outreach with minority groups. They would also be tasked with encouraging and helping minorities apply to government jobs.
Source: The National Post Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons