SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A concurrent resolution brought before the South Dakota House of Representatives failed on Monday with a vote of 4 to 64, with two members excused.
The resolution “Celebrating Black History Month,” brought forward by Pennington County Rep. Phil Jensen was met with much resistance from the Black community in the state, as well as within the legislature.
A bipartisan group of sevens legislators, made up of Representatives Linda Duba, Erin Healy, Jennifer Keintz, Shawn Bordeaux, Tony Randolph, Lana Greenfield and Carl Perry, all spoke out in opposition to the resolution.
The reasons for this group of legislators’ objections were varied, with some decrying what they perceived as a “whitewashing” of history, some lamenting the continued importance the legislature places on race, and still others outlining their distaste for months dedicated to things such as Black history, as they believe such distinctions to be a cause of division.
Former Speaker of the House Steven Haugaard spoke in support of Rep. Jensen’s intent, but did not go so far as to ask his colleagues to vote yes.
Sioux Falls Rep. Duba brought forth an amendment to the resolution which replaced the entire body of the text. Her amendment, which she stated came directly from the board of the South Dakota African American History Museum, was not taken up by the House, failing by a voice-vote.
Published at 12:51 p.m.
The South Dakota House of Representatives will meet Monday to discuss, among other things, HCR 6005, “Celebrating Black History Month.” This resolution has already faced criticism for its descriptions of American history, which some have called “disputable.”
The resolution, introduced by Pennington County Rep. Phil Jensen, claims that “many today overlook or ignore this country’s positive record on race and slavery,” and “Democrats openly acknowledged in congressional hearings that they formed the Ku Klux Klan.”
KELOLAND News spoke with Taneeza Islam, Executive Director of South Dakota Voices for Peace, who called the resolution a “complete distortion of fact.”
“History is in the hands of those who write it,” Islam said, expressing the importance of understanding the facts in order to make inclusive laws.
A potential amendment to the resolution has been put forth by Sioux Falls Rep. Linda Duba, which completely removes the body of Jensen’s resolution, replacing it with a two-page draft that focuses on the history of African Americans in South Dakota. Duba tells us that she worked with the board of the South Dakota African American History Museum when writing her amendment.
We also spoke with Julian Beaudion, the assistant director of the South Dakota African American History Museum, who told us about the importance of the difference between Jensen and Duba’s version, saying “This month in particular is not about being a Republican; is not about being a Democrat or an Independent. It’s just simply about Black accomplishment.”
Beaudion expanded on that sentiment, leveling criticism at Jensen’s resolution for diminishing the success of Black Americans by attributing that success to Republicans. Beaudion says he has reached out to Rep. Jensen in hopes of discussing the resolution, but has not received a response.
KELOLAND News also reached out to Jensen with questions about the resolution, including an inquiry about whether Jensen sought input from the Black community. As of the time this story was published, those questions have not been answered.