Surprisingly, Some Bigots Back (Sort of) Black History Month Observance
Rep. Michele Bachmann and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, two right-wing Republicans eyeing presidential campaigns in 2012, provided a big boost for Black History Month recently with remarks challenging contentions that this recognition of ignored contributions is an irrelevant relic in this post-racial "Age of Obama."
Although conservative dogma considers this annual observance during the month of February an anathema, neither Bachmann nor Barbour face censure for heresy from their ideological confederates.
Far from being a ringing endorsement, the offensive utterances of Bachmann and Barbour highlight the importance of Black History Month founded in the early 20th Century to counter factual inaccuracies about blacks then rampant across America’s racially segregated society.
Michelle Bachmann, the Minnesota Congresswoman and Tea Party maven, said America’s Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery--a gross distortion of historic fact easily evident in the life of George Washington, America’s first President and Revolutionary War leader, who was born in the month of February.
Washington owned slaves and, as president, signed the federal Fugitive Slave Act mandating return of runaway slaves seeking freedom.
Further, Washington spent the waning years of his life diligently working to recapture two favored slaves who had fled his executive mansion, according to the new book The Black History of the White House by Clarence Lusane.
Bachmann’s failure to check facts is not inadvertent, said Professor Ewuare Osayande during a recent lecture entitled “Why Black History Month Still Matters” offered at the Camden, NJ campus of Rutgers University.
“Why does a national figure not check her claims? She does, and she doesn’t care about the truth,” Osayande charged, saying Bachmann’s Founding Fathers assertion is the type of “willful falsehood that becomes patriotic truth” in America.
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s recent refusal to even question efforts in his state to issue a license plate honoring a Confederate Army general who had served as the first national leader of the terrorist Ku Klux Klan epitomizes a rancid practice in America’s roiling racial caldron: the denial dynamic of not dealing with truths.
The fact that Barbour has repeatedly white-washed historic fact during just the past few months, for example praising the segregation-defending White Citizens Council of his hometown for what he falsely claimed was its support of desegregation, recently elicited criticism from Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson.
Robinson scored Barbour’s historically inaccurate accounts as “either a pathology or a plan” to pander for conservative votes.
America’s racial realities past and present heighten the importance of recognizing the black facts comprising major chapters in the ignored volumes of American history.
Racist incidents in America have actually increased since the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the first non-white to hold that office. President Obama, for example, has received more death threats than any of his predecessors, with most of those threats reportedly being motivated merely by his race.
Earlier this month, Pennsylvania State Representative Ron Water warned about upsurges across Pennsylvania in racist incidents perpetrated by white children as young as 12 years old. Waters, head of that state’s Legislative Black Caucus, noted that “children do not pick up this behavior in a vacuum.”