The front page of cnn.com has been running a story by John Blake entitled, “Parallels to country’s racist past haunt age of Obama“. From start to finish the article is a blatant attempt to paint the entire Republican agenda as a plan to restore racial segregation and institutionalized discrimination in the United States. Mr. Blake uses anecdotal stories of the N-word in twitter accounts (though presumably not referring to the twitter responses to Stacy Dash’s tweet) and complaints about “black flash mobs” alongside citing any opposition to Obama’s legislative agenda as examples of Republicans trying to undo years of racial progress made by the courageous Democratic party through the years. Mr. Blake uses the example of Senator Revels and failure of the Reconstruction movement to draw an analogy to today’s President Obama and the failure of his “post-racial” legislative agenda. The analogy is very appropriate, but not for the reason that Mr. Blake presented.
It is important to understand historical facts before addressing how shockingly false and malicious Mr. Blake’s article really is. When one moves beyond the rhetoric and looks at the historical achievements of the Republican party, it is shocking that any African-American votes Democrat:
- 1865 – Republican Abraham Lincoln won the civil war and abolished slavery. Good start for the party.
- 1870 – Republican Hiram Revels is elected to the US Senate. The first black man to be elected to the US Senate got some support from Democrats because they thought that his election would break the Republican party.
- 1870 – 1948 Not much happened for the Black population of the US despite powerful presidencies of Democratic heroes like FDR and Truman.
- 1948 – Republican Dwight Eisenhower forces desegregation of the armed forces against strong opposition. After Brown vs Board of Education, Eisenhower famously deploys the 101st Airborne Division to forcibly desegregate schools in Little Rock, AR. He declares racial segregation a national security issue and establishes the Civil Rights Commission and puts a permanent civil rights office in the Justice Department. The first civil rights legislation since the 1870′s, the Civil rights act of 1957 was passed despite strong Democratic opposition. Senate Democrats did manage to water down the bill so that a second voter rights bill was necessary. Partially at the request of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. President Eisenhower passes a follow-up voter protection civil rights act of 1960, again against strong Democratic opposition.
- 1964 – Democratic President LBJ passes the landmark Civil Rights Act against Democratic opposition in congress.
- 1970 – Republican President Richard Nixon signs the Philadelphia Plan and Affirmative action is born (yes, Richard Nixon is responsible for Affirmative Action). Though not pertinent to racial issues, it is also interesting to point out that Nixon is responsible for the Equal Rights Amendment guaranteeing equal rights for Women under the law.
- 1983 – Republican President Ronald Reagan makes Martin Luther King, Jr day an official federal holiday. In 1988, he would expand and strengthen the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
- 1991 – President George H. W Bush appoints the second African-American Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas.
The road to equal rights under the law was largely paved by Republicans. However, most Republicans (sans Nixon), view legal equality as the just end goal fo legislative activity. Until the time of the Civil Rights act, Democrats largely sought to deny civil rights to the African-American population. Since then, the Democratic party started a new, though equally devastating, policy towards the African-American population. The plan was to create an entitled dependent class that would get “special” protections and privileges under the law. Such special privileges would be justified by stoking racial tension and convincing the African-American population that anything short of special treatment under the law is oppression. Quotas, affirmative action, and over-reaching anti-discrimination laws that make it very easy to sue employers were passed ensuring that people would always doubt the accomplishments of minorities and make employers think twice about employing people that they would not be able to fire. The measures ensured that African-American unemployment would always remain high. In addition to destructive “special” privileges under the law, entitlement programs were geared towards the African-American population and created a dependent class that required government handouts to survive.
This narrative of this policy is clearly illustrated in Mr. Blake’s CNN article. Anyone who denies that narrative and points out the devastating consequences of those policies is deemed a racist. The Democratic party has been using narrative of racial strife, special rights, and government handouts to manipulate the African-American electorate into voting for them. Any African-American who votes against the Democratic party is viciously attacked as a sell-out or “uncle Tom”.
Manipulating the black vote for personal benefit by keeping old conflicts and hatred alive is by no means a characteristic unique to the modern Democratic party. The same immoral and powerful narrative was used by the Republican party for a short time in the 1870′s. One courageous man stood up to his own party and publicly denounced the strategy:
Since reconstruction, the masses of my people have been, as it were, enslaved in mind by unprincipled adventurers, who, caring nothing for country, were willing to stoop to anything no matter how infamous, to secure power to themselves, and perpetuate it….. My people have been told by these schemers, when men have been placed on the ticket who were notoriously corrupt and dishonest, that they must vote for them; that the salvation of the party depended upon it; that the man who scratched a ticket was not a Republican. This is only one of the many means these unprincipled demagogues have devised to perpetuate the intellectual bondage of my people…. The bitterness and hate created by the late civil strife has, in my opinion, been obliterated in this state, except perhaps in some localities, and would have long since been entirely obliterated, were it not for some unprincipled men who would keep alive the bitterness of the past, and inculcate a hatred between the races, in order that they may aggrandize themselves by office, and its emoluments, to control my people, the effect of which is to degrade them.
The man behind this courageous quote was ex-senator Hiram Revels, in 1875. The Republican party had been using slavery and the crimes of the civil war to secure the black vote. Senator Revels knew that the only way to move on to a post-racial society is to come together and stop stoking up racial and cultural hate of years past. He even voted to give confederates citizenship if they swore an oath of loyalty to the US. He knew that the hate narrative continued by President Grant to secure political points would ruin the Reconstruction efforts and negate the powerful symbolism of his own election into the US senate. How ironic that an article designed to fabricate stories of white oppression and stoke the fires of racial strife would highlight the most courageous figure in US history to rage against such tactics.
The article concludes by asking how Senator Revels might feel if he could see Obama and America in 2012. That one is easy to answer: Senator Revel would have seen a familiar historic election of an African-American to an office that had never been available to his race. He would have celebrated the promise that election held to launch America into a post-racial era. Now imagine if after the promise and hope that election gave, the party that achieved it falsely used racial hate and divisiveness to secure political gain. For once we don’t have to speculate what his reaction would be, because the story is the exact same as what Senator Revel experienced 140 years ago. We can safely assume that he would hang his head in shame.