Rep. Jennifer Decker attempted to redefine the meaning of American chattel slavery while claiming that diversity and equity programs are unnecessary because her father was able to rise up from his alleged humble beginnings.
On Feb. 1, Decker, a 68-year-old white woman, was invited to a meeting held by the Shelbyville chapter of the NAACP to discuss a state education bill she’s sponsoring that would prohibit DEI initiatives, The Courier Journal reported. Under the bill, training and scholarships dedicated to diversity would all be defunded.
In the process of her spiel to the NAACP, Decker, a Republican from 40 miles outside of Lexington, definitely incorporated a bit of revisionist history.
“My father was a slave, just to a white man and he was white,” Decker said when someone in the crowd asked about her family’s role in the slave trade.
According to The Courier Journal, Decker said her dad was born on a dirt farm—nearly 70 years after American slavery was abolished—and that her paternal grandmother was the illegitimate child “of a very prominent person who then was kind enough to allow them to work for him as slaves.”
Social media had a field day once Decker’s comments surfaced.
“Too many of our Republican legislators like to say outrageous bigoted things for attention then refuse to own it when called on it,” Kentucky education advocate Rob Mattheu posted on X, the site formerly known as Twitter. “Jennifer Decker is a truly abhorrent and stupid person.”
“A white slave in the mid-20th century? Talk about recreating history!” University of Louisville Pan-African Studies Professor Dr. Ricky L. Jones wrote. “Maybe this makes sense in the alternate supremacist reality that is Kentucky, but nowhere else. Jennifer Decker and her Republican friends lie about and distort everything else, why not this?”
— PRWilly (@PatRWilliamson) February 13, 2024
“I’m embarrassed for her & KY. She is an elected official. She should feel embarrassed,” poet and activist Hannah Drake tweeted. “During [Black History Month] she wants us to know her father was a slave. Help me somebody.”
To Rep. Jennifer Decker of KY…
Black people all over the world. pic.twitter.com/NfLcSF468C
— #BlackLife❤️🖤💚 (@OfficialKYChick) February 13, 2024
Decker later told The Courier Journal that because her father was born impoverished and that his family worked as farm hands on someone else’s property that essentially put him on the same level as an enslaved person.
“[My father] was a child and his family all worked there,” Decker told the outlet, implying that—heaven forbid—her father had to do chores as a child.
While dishing out her sob story, Decker acknowledged that her “slave” comment was “probably” an overstatement because her dad didn’t experience the same abuse that enslaved Black people had. She also said that her family had not been kidnapped.
When Kentucky House Bill 9 was introduced in January, Decker claimed that diversity initiatives made secondary education “divided, more expensive, and less tolerant,” according to Louisville Public Media.
Neither Decker nor the NAACP immediately responded to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment Tuesday.