Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Confederacy and the African American Community

Governor Bob McDonnell (R-Virginia), once again reminded us why the African American community that embraced Republicans have shifted their allegiance to the Democratic Party when he issued a proclamation declaring April Confederate History Month. The proclamation, which was issued last week, calls on Virginians "to reflect upon our Commonwealth’s shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War" who "fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today."

This one-sided ode to the soldiers that fought against the union angered members of the civil rights community, as well as some conservatives like Ramesh Ponnuru of The National Review. Absent from the proclamation was any reference to the soldiers who died protecting the union as well as, until today, any reference to the institution which the Confederates were protecting - slavery. Today the governor apologized for the glaring omission and consequently amended his proclamation to include this reference to our sordid past.

Whether he was genuinely sorry or not, the governor should have apologized as soon as this glaring omission was pointed out to him. One has to question why this rising star within the Republican Party would issue such a proclamation honoring these men in the first place. They weren't merely protect "their homes and communities and Commonwealth" when rebelled against Washington. They were defending the institution of slavery and the evils that were committed along with them. They were defending the plantation owner who raped the African American women that he owned. They were defending the foreman who whipped the slaves who weren't working fast enough. They were defending the owner's right to buy and sell real live human beings, tearing families apart as fathers were separated from their mothers and children.

The Republicans of the 19nth Century fought against this. Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican elected to the White House, issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves from their masters. His track record wasn't perfect but it was stronger than the man that ultimately succeeded him, Andrew Johnson. His emancipation proclamation and the Republicans' initial efforts to rebuild the southern states won the African American community's allegiance.

That would change when a President Lyndon Johnson (D) signed major civil rights legislation like the Voting Rights Act. His successor would court these conservative southern Democrats who opposed this legislation. The African Americans understandably shifted their allegiance accordingly.

Today's conservatives say they aren't racists and they base their opposition to affirmative action programs because they hinder their efforts to create a "color-blind society." These same conservatives defended police officers when used racial profiling to narrow down their list of suspects and make inspection stops along major highways. One former Republican Governor, a moderate no less (Christie Todd Whitman), even posed during a frisking stop in Camden. Former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, himself a moderate, defended his city's police officers from some visually graphic atrocities committed against African Americans.

African Americans can be forgiven for thinking that the Republicans tend to support any discrimination that is designed to hurt them while opposing any that might help them. And by courting the racists within his base, the Governor of Virginia gave the African American community yet another reason to believe that the Republicans truly don't care for them.

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