Commentator Candace Owens speaks during CPAC 2019 on March 1, 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland. (Getty/Mark Wilson)

CPAC 2019: Candace Owens claims racism is over, because "I've never been a slave"

The conservative commentator drew sharp criticism after she attempted to refute the existence of racism in America


Shira Tarlo
March 2, 2019 12:00AM (UTC)

Candace Owens, the director of communications for student group Turning Point USA, drew sharp criticism on Friday after she attempted to refute the existence of racism by explaining that she herself has never been a slave.

"America is not a racist country," the black conservative provocateur said during a conservative convention. "Stop selling us our own oppression. Stop taking away our self-confidence by telling us that we can't because of racism, because of slavery."

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"I've never been a slave in this country," Owens declared.

Owens, a prominent conservative commentator and frequent Fox News guest, made the controversial comments Friday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which touts itself as "the birthplace of modern conservatism." Her comments came under intense scrutiny on Twitter, where users, including sports journalist Jemele Hill, cited the lawsuit she filed in 2007 after accusing a group of teens of leaving her threatening and racist messages while she was a high school student. Owens won the lawsuit and received a $37,500 settlement.

"So I guess when she sued — and won — a lawsuit after receiving threats then she must have been in some other country," Hill tweeted Friday.

"Yup. I guess racism ended just after @RealCandaceO Owens lawsuit over....racism," journalist Roland Martin wrote on Twitter. "Whatever. She's a joke."

Journalist Dean Obeidallah called Owens' words "beyond irresponsible" and "truly evil" on Twitter. He claimed she is emboldening white conservatives to believe "the real victim of racism in America is white people."

Owens emerged as a conservative firebrand last year after rapper Kanye West tweeted positively about her. But the rapper distanced himself from the right-wing activist after she falsely claimed that he had designed the logo for "Blexit," her campaign devoted to convincing black voters to leave the Democratic Party and vote Republican.

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Following the T-shirt scandal, Owens found herself under fire again. In December, the pro-Trump activist faced backlash after she appeared to defend Adolf Hitler's plan for Germany, calling it "OK" while speaking in London — the same city that the Nazi dictator bombed nearly 80 years ago. Owens, at the time, was asked by an audience member for her thoughts on nationalism in Western politics. In her response, Owens claimed "nationalism" had been given a negative reputation before bringing up Hitler.

"I actually don't have any problems at all with the word 'nationalism,'" Owens said. "I think that the definition gets positioned by elitists that actually want globalism. Globalism is what I don't want . . . Whenever we say nationalism, the first thing people think about, at least in America, is Hitler."

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"He was a national socialist," she continued, "but if Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK. Fine. The problem is that he wanted, he had dreams outside of Germany. He wanted to globalize. He wanted everybody to be German, everybody to be speaking German, everybody to look a different way. To me, that's not nationalism. In thinking about how we could go bad down the line, I don't really have an issue with nationalism. I really don't."

Owens dismissed the controversy and blamed "leftist journalists" for mischaracterizing her remarks. In clarifying her comments, she said Hitler was "a homicidal, psychotic maniac" and there is "no excuse or defense ever for . . . everything that he did."


Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

MORE FROM Shira TarloFOLLOW @shiratarlo


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