WASHINGTON, D.C.—Americans are getting a better view of racism in American politics thanks to the spotlight on the 2012 Republican Party candidates for president. That’s not to say each one is a bigot. But so far the majority of them, led by former Speaker Newt Gingrich, have made a mission to pander to this extreme fringe of American politics. Why did the party choose Gingrich to covertly run their mission?
Douglas Was Wrongly Called "Scary" By Bigots In The 1860s
Gingrich a native Georgian, a Southerner, knows all the code words to rally the base of the party that contains the bigots. He recently asked, “What if Obama is so outside our comprehension that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior can you begin to piece [him] together?” Those words by the former Speaker of the House of Representatives are the words mixed heritage African Americans in the south heard about themselves for centuries, during and after slavery. We also were taught that George Washington’s anti-colonial belief system was heroic. This is how bigots and the Republican Party demonize the president with the accusations that in fact are to be honored by white leaders, but not by African Americans.
You have to put our nation’s history into context with what was perceived by African Americans as utter stupidity and outright denial on the part of white Americans. Slave owners who fathered millions of children by their slaves, while their wives pretended it did not occur, and would sit on the front porch sipping mint juleps and denying any rumors surrounding their husbands and sons were only fooling themselves. Remember that African American oral (slave) history was disregarded for centuries in central Virginia when even I as a child was told about Jefferson fathering children with his slave Sally Hemming, who was also his wife’s half-sister. Yes, Hemming was the daughter of a slave owner as well. However, Jefferson’s descendants vehemently denied the allegations for close to two centuries, and even in the 1980s and early ‘90s were quoted as saying, “Jefferson was a moral man. He would never have had sex with his slaves.” DNA technology now tells us that the oral history that African Americans carried for generations was not only possible, but was probable. DNA proved that several of Hemming’s children were by Jefferson. In fact, slaves on the Monticello plantation and their descendants believe all of her children were by her slave owner and brother-in-law Thomas Jefferson.
With Gingrich’s statements, and the acknowledgement that candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum signed a pledge called, “The Marriage Vow-A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family,” we see a similar game being played out that is so familiar to many of us who grew up in the South. The organization’s pledge sounds innocuous enough, doesn’t it? Sounds almost Evangelical. Perhaps it is. However, after two attorneys (Bachmann and Santorum), who both want our support to make them the most powerful leader in the world stated they did not completely read the document. Are we to believe their denials? And why would anyone sign a document without reading it first, especially politicians? You decide. I have my own opinions on the matter.
The document went on to equate homosexuality with polygamy and stated that African Americans were essentially better off as a family unit under slavery than today, under the first African American president of the nation. Despite his being a husband and father, we are supposed to believe this was not an attack that was racially motivated at all.
During the days of slavery and after the end of the most evil institution in American history in 1865, white America denied the existence of their offspring and their relatives, while African Americans accepted the progeny of slaves and their slave owners. Slaves did not have family units that were solid. A father, a mother, a child could and were almost always sold off to the highest bidder. And their marriages were not even considered legal by the United States of America. To think that the Republican Party of 2011 would even entertain the idea that there were positive aspects and attributes of this vile scourge and blight on our nation’s history is not only outlandish, but subtly racist. These are the arguments that were used to enslave a race of people for centuries in our nation. Essentially saying they could not take care of themselves, they were better off under slavery.
Immediately after the backlash against the candidates and the Republican Party, the group issued the following statement, in part, “We sincerely apologize for any negative feelings this has caused, and have removed the language from the vow.” This is not only disingenuous but it also achieves the desired goal. The message was already given to the bigots within the Republican Party.
It’s similar to the defense strategy in the Casey Anthony case. By throwing out the initial allegations of sexual abuse of Anthony in her murder trial’s opening argument, no one on the jury remembered during closing statements that it was not proven or that any testimony or evidence was given to support that allegation. This group essentially did the same thing. The two candidates who signed it managed to give a wink of support to such language and such beliefs to pander to their base, and also managed to essentially play dumb to the party at large, which is acceptable to those who want to believe the best of their party and their party’s leaders, despite knowing the truth. It gives the average republican cover to go out and denounce it, but secretly smile and say, “We made our point.”
The racist attacks on President Obama that began with calling him a Muslim, which is also bigoted, was a planned covert mission by the republicans to get Newt Gingrich to disseminate and to throw out enough Antebellum-like comments about an exotic looking American President, and to pander to people who want to believe African American men are inferior, less intelligent, and if they can’t prove those points, they just slander that person into making the nation doubt their citizenship and worthiness to be an American.
Many slave owners—after adding their gene pool to the Africans they brought on slave ships across the Atlantic to the Americas—sent hundreds of thousands of them back to a new nation called Liberia in Africa so that they would not have to look at the people they’d created. These were mixed Africans who were light-skinned; some had red hair and green or blue eyes. Obama’s position of power flies in the face of Jefferson’s and other slave owner’s mission that has been underway in America for centuries. He is the face that bigots deny exists in this country.
Former slave, genius and African American Frederick Douglas, who was the product of a slave rape, suffered the same hatred this president has suffered on the basis solely of his race. I may not agree with many of his policies, but this has never been a policy debate on the part of republicans. From emails falsely stating the U.S. Supreme Court was investigating his citizenship, to photoshopped White House photos with Islamic decorations, we see a covert message given to the party of Lincoln and Reagan that we will make him illegitimate at whatever means possible.
As Jesus laid on the cross, he looked to the heavens and said, “Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.” This Republican Party can never utter those words.
Additionally, they know what they do, and they have reveled in it for close to three years now, with no signs of ceasing. Why not? It has short-term gains.
The bad news for the Republican Party is that this behavior is having a lasting effect on the youth of America. They are getting a firsthand look at bigotry in real-time. Something many only had knowledge of in U.S. History books in high school and in college. The good news is that each generation removed from slavery and the century-long reign of Jim Crow (1865-1965) laws now know what Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and so many iconic Americans fought against.
Next week I lay out the problems within the Democratic Party.
Please pray for our soldiers, the real heroes in America who fight on the front lines of this war on terror. And do your part to fight domestic terrorism and bigotry stateside.
Photograph of Frederick Douglas Courtesy: Smithsonian