Rewriting U.S. History: A Revisionist Republican Perspective

We should now understand the reason Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) cannot get her history straight. She claims the “founding fathers worked tirelessly to end slavery,” even though southern founding fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson, owned them.

Bachmann also believes that African American children born during slavery were better off than African American children born after the election of the President Obama. Lacking any real historical knowledge of American history and viewing black history through a white racial frame, Bachmann does not understand that black families were broken up and sold like chattel on the auction block. Marriages between a black man and black female were not legal, but took place with the blessings of the slave master. “But the wedding vows they recited promised not ‘until death do us part,’ but ‘until distance’ or, as one black minister bluntly put it, ‘the white man’ – ‘do us part.’”

Revisionist GOPer David Barton and other conservatives want to rewrite the history books by “shifting black history away from the civil rights movement.” Barton wants the Republican Party to receive credit for liberating African Americans from the atrocious treatment at the hands of white racists:

Barton, who was hired by the GOP to do outreach to black churches in the run-up to the 2004 election, has argued elsewhere that African Americans owe their civil rights almost entirely to Republicans.

Barton goes on to argue that Martin Luther King should not be given “credit for advancing the rights of minorities. As Barton put it, ‘Only majorities can expand political rights in America’s constitutional society.’” Are we to accept the position that the majority would have freely given African Americans their civil rights had they not fought for them under the leadership of Martin Luther King? It is understandable why Rep. Allen West (R-FL), an African American Tea Party darling, believes his membership with the Republican Party has given him a one-way ticket off the “21st century plantation.”

But Barton has a point. Only majorities can set the record straight, since they are in power to change laws after minority groups raise a political ruckus for their civil rights they have so long been denied. It is obvious that Barton and other conservatives are trying to rewrite American and black history and to woo African Americans to an unfriendly, racist, and obtuse Party that has ignored their economic, political, and legal woes, which is no more than “propaganda masquerading” as pretentious outreach to carry out their quest among many to destroy the Democratic political base. During his second term as president, former President Bush gave a speech before the NAACP where he

acknowledged that whatever prestige the Republican Party once had with African Americans has been squandered, telling the NAACP on July 20, 2006 that he understands why “many African Americans distrust my political party” and that he considers it “a tragedy that the party of Abraham Lincoln let go of its historic ties with the African American community. For too long my party wrote off the African American vote, and many African Americans wrote off the Republican Party.

Gate Keeping in the Halls of Science: The Continuing Significance of Race (Part 2)

[Prof. Smith continues his previous discussion]

There are three consequences that immediately appear as a result of this type of bias in academe:

(1) an applicant for a faculty position is likely to be asked if they have been the recipient of federal grant funds, as a initial condition of employment, which is ideal for both preparing a 5-year plan for scholarship as well as bringing the highly valuable “in-directs” ($$$) into the department; if not, they are less likely to be offered a job than a candidate who already has secured federal funding. If African Americans are less likely than their White counterparts to exit graduate school and/or a post-doc with grants, they will be less likely to be offered tenure line positions.

(2) often securing external funding is a condition for tenure and promotion to associate; thus discrimination at the level of funding agencies translates into lower rates of tenure and promotion for African American scholars, a fact that has been proven time and time again.

(3) simultaneously, with the majority of departments in all types of institutions from “research one” to “liberal arts colleges” require scholarly publications for tenure and promotion, especially promotion to full. Assistant professors without funded research projects will have a far more difficult time conducting the research and collecting the data that is a necessary precursor to scholarly publications. Thus, discrimination in the awarding of federal grants is most definitely a cause of the lower rates of promotion of faculty of color, especially African Americans, and women. Of course this only exacerbates the proverbial double standard: that minorities and women have to be “twice as good” which is also well documented.

(4) A fourth consequence can be added: the cycle continues: discrimination in awards to pre-docs, post-docs and assistant professors leaves African American scholars without a “track record” of previous awards that leaves them significantly disadvantaged in future competitions for funding awards.

Finally, this cited study allows me to note that the Color Line remains problematic in so called “post-racial” America.

Earl Smith, PhD
Professor of American Ethnic Studies
and Sociology
Wake Forest University