Thursday, April 03, 2008

Learning Our History

Nina May's latest article is addressed to Barack Obama and it encourages him to learn American History; specifically the history of Blacks in America. If you find it a bit odd for a white woman to lecture a black man on his history, well you aren't alone. But let's look at what she says.
There was a big problem with Barack’s mea culpa speech in Philadelphia, defending his racist pastor, Jeremiah White. He failed to mention that over 300,000 white Americans gave their lives to end slavery. He didn’t mention that in 1854, abolitionists left the Democratic Party and founded the Republican Party specifically for the purpose of ending slavery and giving equal rights to all those who had been in bondage. And when he does mention the 3/5ths clause in the Constitution, he totally got it wrong, the way most Americans do. News flash . . . it was the abolitionists who insisted on it so that the slave holding states could not have their slaves counting as constituents so they could get more pro-slavery representation in congress. This is one of the most powerful battles fought by whites, to end slavery, which has been mischaracterized as being racist.
OK let's tick this off.

1. You think it's wrong that Obama failed to mention the 300,000 White Union Soldiers who gave their lives to free the black man. What about the 258,000 White Confederate Soldiers who gave their lives to keep the black man a slave?

2. You reference that the Republican Party was created, in part, by abolitionists seeking to free the slaves. But don't you think it's also notable that following the Civil Rights Acts of the 1950s and the 1960s, Southern White segregationists quit the Democratic Party in droves, to join the Republican Party? Why is that? Unless, perhaps, the Republican Party's character had changed between 1860 and 1960?

3. Finally you defend the 3/5s compromise as a victory for abolitionists. What tripe. A victory for abolitionists would have been, well, abolishing slavery. What the 3/5 compromise was was a compromise, a compromise necessitated by the overall racism of the United States at that time. It was certainly better than counting slaves equally would have been; and of course there were noble people of that time fighting to end the abomination of slavery. But the culture as a whole wouldn't accept it.

To put it another way, if America had been as noble as May paints it, the 3/5 compromise would not have been necessary. So maybe it's May that needs to take another look at history, without the ideological blinders of Conservatism.

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