Slavery, of all things, has become an issue in two Arkansas legislative campaigns, including the re-election bid of state Rep. Jon Hubbard, R-Jonesboro, whose controversial views on race made national news last week.
The Huffington Post, a popular Internet magazine, published a story Friday quoting from Hubbard’s book, "Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative." The story said the self-published book is new, but it’s not, having been copyrighted in 2009.
However, the story focuses on some radical statements that had been picked up recently by various Arkansas media, including the Arkansas Times and TalkBusiness.net, and earlier by the BlueArkansas blog.
In the book Hubbard argues that slavery was not such a bad thing: "… the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth."
At another point Hubbard says that African-Americans should "understand that even while in the throes of slavery, their lives as Americans are likely much better than they ever would have enjoyed living in sub-Saharan Africa."
The article also noted that Hubbard had written about school integration that black students have "a lack of discipline and ambition," which, he contended, has hurt the entire educational system.
Post writer John Celock said Hubbard told him he didn’t have time to comment on the story. However, over the weekend he issued a statement to KAIT-TV, complaining that his words were being taken out of context by "left-wing liberal bloggers."
After the Post and columnist Michael Cook of TalkBusiness.net reported on Hubbard’s slavery comments in the book, The Arkansas Times did a search of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette archives for letters to the editor written by state Rep. Loy Mauch, R-Bismarck, and found even more controversial remarks on slavery.
In a 2003 letter Mauch wrote: "Nowhere in the Holy Bible have I found a word of condemnation for the operation of slavery, Old or New Testament. If slavery was so bad, why didn’t Jesus, Paul or the prophets say something?"
He said much the same thing, according to the Times, in a 2009 letter: "If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it, why was it in the Constitution, and why wasn’t there a war before 1861?"
Mauch and Hubbard were both elected to the state House of Representatives in 2010 as Republicans made gains on the long-standing Democratic majority.
Letters to the editor, it seems, can sometimes come back to haunt people who go into politics. While the title of Hubbard’s book would sound like it’s a compilation of letters to the editor, it’s not really. Rather his views are stitched together in chapters that ramble from one rant to another.
As editor of The Jonesboro Sun during those years, I received many letters from Hubbard and published most of them. However, we had a good many arguments since he didn’t like to conform to the rules we had for letters, such as their length.
Someone sent me a copy of his book back then, but I only read the introduction before putting it aside. I felt like I’d already read it.
One would think that such controversial views would have become issues in the 2010 campaigns of Hubbard and Mauch, but they didn’t.
Hubbard unseated incumbent Democrat Joan Cash to represent District 58, which now includes most of Jonesboro — my district. Hubbard is being challenged for re-election this year by businessman Harold Copenhaver, D-Jonesboro.
Mauch faces general election opposition in District 26, which includes portions of Clark and Hot Spring County, from David Kizzia, D-Hot Springs.
In Hubbard’s first term he focused on sponsoring bills designed to deal with what he sees as our state’s immigration problem. None of his 10 bills became law.
But his book offers insight on his immigration theories.
"The immigration issue, both legal and illegal, will one day mean enormous hunger and poverty for all of us, if not addressed," he wrote. "The overpopulation problem will affect food supplies, housing availability, employment, crime and health care. The developed nations will at some point see the necessity of placing birth-rate restrictions on their people to compensate for the population explosions within the Third World counties. Overpopulation will lead to planned wars or extermination to relieve this problem, and although this now seems to be barbaric and uncivilized, it will at some point become as necessary as eating and breathing. The lack of education within the underdeveloped counties will prove to be as dangerous in the future as threats from an unprincipled rogue dictatorship are today."
Since the 2011 legislative session ended, Hubbard has continued his war against illegal aliens, first challenging the University of Arkansas over a panel discussion that included undocumented immigrants and later the state Health Department, arguing that birth certificates should be produced before non-emergency health care.
Slavery hadn’t come up, though, until lately.
Roy Ockert is editor emeritus of The Jonesboro Sun. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.