*Conservative Republicans like Representative Michele Bachmann both anger and scare me. First, they anger me because they have a tendency to totally distort history, especially Black history, in order to score cheap political points. Secondly, they scare me because their overly simplistic and usually incorrect analyses appear to attract a substantial number of white voters by telling them what they want to hear – even when it is wrong.
It was Bachmann, a major contender for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, who recently signed a “Marriage Pledge” which while promoting the social benefits of marriage also suggested that slavery had the positive benefit of keeping Black families together.
This is perhaps Bachmann’s grossest distortion of African American history to date. First of all, the institution of slavery did not recognize marriage among Blacks. Indeed, in many Southern states, it was illegal for a Black woman and a Black man to marry. Secondly, slave families were routinely broken up as plantation owners sold men, women and children to other plantation owners in order to make money.
If a Black family remained intact during slavery it was a result of extraordinary effort on the part of the slaves and just plain luck.
Indeed, the historical record is clear that Blacks did not rush to get married until after slavery ended in 1865. Prior to that time, it was almost impossible for a family to remain intact.
A study co-authored by Dr. Lorraine Blackman concludes that by 1880, 56.3 percent of Black households were nuclear (headed by a man and a woman.) And by 1950, a whopping 80 percent of Black families were headed by married couples. That percentage is now down to around 30 percent.
But why would Bachmann and other conservative Republicans intentionally distort the historical impact of slavery on the Black family. It is just another example of their tendency to place politics over facts. In one respect the “Marriage Pledge” is actually an attack on President Obama because in promoting marriage, it suggests that there was a higher percentage of married Blacks during slavery than there are since Obama’s election.
In other words, they are trying to blame the plight of the Black family on Obama. It makes little difference to them that what they are saying is historically inaccurate. They just want to score a cheap political point even if it necessitates telling a lie.
However, to their credit, since the Bachmann controversy erupted, the Iowa-based Christian group – The Family Leader – responsible for the “Marriage Pledge” has withdrawn the section about the benefits of slavery saying it “can be misconstrued.”
But misconstruing facts is not the concern. It is the deliberate distortion of facts that is the problem.
[Robert Taylor is editor of the blog Daily Black News Journal. Visit him by logging onto http://dailyblack.webs.com .]