SAY WHAT?

04.24.14

These Politicians Praise Slavery

Rogue rancher Cliven Bundy recently shared his thoughts on African Americans and whether or not they were better off as slaves. While Bundy can, and probably should, be dismissed as fringe nonsense, he is hardly alone.

Not quite ready to let his 15 minutes of fame expire, unlawful Nevada rancher-turned-Fox News celebrity Cliven Bundy has continued to hold daily news conferences in his driveway even after his standoff with federal rangers ended. Only one reporter showed up Saturday, but that didn’t matter much to Bundy, who, with the help of a homegrown militia of mostly armed supporters, managed to stave off the Bureau of Land Management from confiscating the cattle he’s been illegally grazing on public land for over 20 years. Bundy took advantage of the small platform in his driveway Saturday to rant about the tyranny of the federal government and share his thoughts on race—securing himself at least a few more minutes of media attention.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy said, describing a North Las Vegas public-housing project he apparently used to drive past, where “the door was usually open” and “at least half a dozen people,” adults and kids alike, were always sitting on the porch because “they didn’t have nothing to do.”

It gets worse.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he continued. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

The fact that this man—who claims “ancestral rights” exempt him from paying grazing fees for land his family has only owned since 1948—believes African Americans might be better off as slaves is offensive, but not necessarily shocking. What’s more disturbing is that similar sentiments have been expressed by elected officials and political figures with much more influence than Bundy. Here are a few:

Trent Franks, the Republican Rep. from Arizona, said in 2010 that “far more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by policies of slavery.”

“They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves…”

While vying for the Republican presidential nomination in 2011, both Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum signed “The Marriage Vow,” a pledge against same-sex marriage circulated by a Christian conservative group, that included a line about how much stronger African-American families were during the era of slavery. The line, which read, “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,” was removed from the pledge once word got out—but not until after both Bachmann and Santorum had signed it.

“America has been the best country on earth for black folks,” conservative commentator Pat Buchanan wrote in “A Brief for Whitey,” his 2008 essay on the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama. “It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.”

While he was running for re-election in 2012 (a campaign that was backed by the Arkansas Republican Party), the Arkansas Times exposed state Rep. Loy Mauch’s history of writing pro-slavery letters to the editor. In one such letter, the Republican wrote, “If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it, why was it in the constitution and why wasn’t there a war before 1861?”

Again, these are just some of the politicians and prominent political voices to have praised slavery in the past decade—not all of them. If attention is going to be paid to Cliven Bundy’s outrageous views on African Americans and slavery, it’s important to note that he isn’t the only one spouting such vitriol.