The institution of slavery was a better environment to raise Black children in than the current environment with laws against discrimination in housing, education and employment. (My interpretation of statement in a pledge signed by two GOP Presidential candidates Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum)
Last week, an Iowa based Christian Conservative group called The Family Leader, run by failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats, solicited GOP presidential candidates to sign a pledge conveying their support for traditional marriage. The pledge entitled “The Marriage Vow-A Declaration of Dependence upon Marriage and Family” is the first step in potentially earning their support for 2012. However, contained within the pledge about marriage was this statement:
Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.
What is disastrous is the fact two presidential candidates feel privileged enough in 2011 to publicly endorse a statement reflective of the most devastating form of human slavery known to the world, a period in American history that not only legally denied Blacks social, economic and political access, but attempted to strip an entire people of our dignity and self-worth. Claiming to understand that “slavery had a disastrous impact on African American families”, to suggest that Black children would be better off born in slavery than during the period when America elected its’ first African American President reveals two ugly truths: There is no such thing as “unconscious racism;” and the principle of freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not the core belief of American society.
Racism in America is the conscious hatred for non-white people evidenced by policies and practices that deny the same rights and privileges equally to all, and by the hate speech in public discourse that clearly reveals ignorance, bigotry and incites malice. The belief that America is “post racial” is a fallacy demonstrated by the rise in such groups as The Tea Party and The Family Leader, both identified as Christian Conservatives, both espousing a return to a pre-civil rights era of America. Agendas that are Anti-Affirmative Action, Anti-Immigration Reform, Anti-LGBT Equality, shows us that America continues to be socially polarized based on race, ethnicity and gender identity.
The reference to slavery being better for the next generation of Black children in the Marriage Vow Pledge not only minimizes the actual social and economic damage that slavery’s exploitation of Black people caused, but also seeks to excuse America from continuing to implement policies and practices that repairs that damage. As an American institution, slavery systematically prevented Blacks from participating in the generational wealth building opportunities that the ruling class enjoyed during the formation of America as a world economic and political power. Consequently, Black Americans are largely consumers in industries that we were prevented access to becoming producers due to discriminatory policies.
To suggest that a “two parent household” in slavery is better for Black children when Black women were constantly raped by slave owners, entire Black families separated through sales to other plantations, Black communities were socially and psychologically destroyed through brutalization, tortuous whippings, lynching and male castration, completely and utterly discounts the domestic terrorism that America’s Black citizens have experienced. The fact that The Family Leader withdrew the reference to slavery and apologized “for any negative feelings this has caused”, is not an apology for the slavery language. It is an apology for how we as Black people (and every good conscience person) feel because of the language, which is not an apology for The Family Leader’s sentiments of racism and bigotry.
The Marriage Vow Pledge claims to focus on the core issue of strengthening marriages, but includes numerous references to slavery, incarceration, poverty, homosexuality and infidelity among athletes, celebrities and politicians. Clearly, there is a grouping of people and social characteristics that are identified as “anti-American” by the Christian Conservatives and therefore labeled as destructive to American society. It is disastrous to think that we have not learned from the Christian Crusades that forcing compliance based on religious principles leads to violence. It is disastrous to think that we have not learned from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, the slain martyr for peace, tolerance and reconciliation that “hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that.”
A true Christian agenda should seek to recompense for the disastrous consequences of slavery rather than use it as a means for invoking support for narrowly socializing America. A Christian agenda should seek to influence policies and practices that promote access to equality for all people rather than denying rights and privileges. Christianity demands that confession of the sins of slavery, bigotry, racism and discrimination, and the subsequent repentance of such attitudes and behavior, precede divine forgiveness. At that point there is a legitimate claim to Christianity.