Saturday, July 09, 2011

Bachmann's Dog Whistle Politics: Concern Trolling Black People

Michele Bachmann jumped at the chance to sign Bob Vander Plaats's Marriage Vow, which includes this ear piercing statement:

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.

Any time a Republican talks about slavery, you should pay close attention. And, what's up with singling out Obama for the time frame reference? Has the rate of single parent black families gone up since Obama became president? According to the Annie E Casey foundation's Kid's Count, 67% of African American children lived in a single parent household in 2009.  In 2008, under President Bush, it was 65%. Not a really big difference, so why mention Obama? Maybe Vander Plaats has some of these suddenly politically involved people working for him:

Some Neo-Nazis have also quietly been joining national campaigns and offices to start sharpening their political teeth, he claims.  “We have people working with the most recent incoming class of freshmen in the House,” says Culpepper. “And they don’t even know it.”

To be kind to Vander Plaats, I suppose his group is simply trying to state, in stark terms, how bad it is that so many black children have to grow up with only one parent these days. It's so bad, in fact, that it should be compared to the "disasterous impact" of slavery. Sure, it's hyperbole, but they're trying to use "facts" to make a point. Since Republicans aren't used to working with real facts, I will try to help them out.

First of all, the footnote to that dog whistle sends one off to an Institute for American Values publication, The Consequences of Marriage for African Americans. Since no page number is given, I looked at all references to slavery and could only find data referring to 1880. So, right off the bat, it seems Vander Plaat has done what Republicans love to do: he made shit up.

Also, consider the source. The Institute for American Values was founded by David Blankenhorn, who made the news just the other day with this gem that many Mormons will just love:

David Blankenhorn, founder of the Institute for American Values in New York, said polygamy was more in line with core values than same-sex marriage. At least polygamists, he said, were faithful to the concept of a union between man and woman.

How is marrying many women faithful to the concept of a union between a man and a woman (singular)? Maybe because regular sex with different women is less icky to him than gay sex. Of course, the Bible has all kinds of fun marriage types that are approved by God, and polygamy is one of them.

Next, it seems that Vander Plaats completely ignored the question of mixed race children of slaves, of which there were many.

The Southern author Mary Chesnut wrote in her famous A Diary from Dixie of the Civil War-era about the hypocrisy of a woman's recognizing white men's children among the slaves in every household but her own. Fanny Kemble, the British actress who married an American slaveholder, wrote about her observations of slavery as well, including the way white men used slave women and left their mixed-race children enslaved.

It's obvious that, since the master and father of this slave didn't live in the slave housing with the mother, this child was not living with both parents.

Actual facts about slavery put the Vander Plaats quote in some context. Since it seems that what he and Presidential candidates Bachmann and Rick Santorum believe is that children are better off with two parents in the house: so much better off, in fact, that a child born a slave in 1860 would be better off (because she had two parents) than a child born today who is living with only one parent. So, here are a few facts about slave children that will make it obvious to anyone what a huge dog whistle this is (note that just a few days ago, I predicted Bachmann would start blowing the dog whistles):


Most infants were weaned within three or four months.
Half of all slave babies died in the first year of life--twice the rate for white babies.
The average birth weight of slave infants was less than 5.5 pounds.
Children entered the labor force as early as 3 or 4. Some were taken into the master's house to be servants while others were assigned to special children's gangs called "trash gangs," which swept yards, cleared drying cornstalks from fields, chopped cotton, carried water to field hands, weeded, picked cotton, fed work animals, and drove cows to pasture.
By age 7, over 40 percent of the boys and half the girls had entered the work force. At about 11, boys began to transfer to adult field jobs.
Nearly a third of slave laborers were children...
Diarrhea, dysentery, whooping cough, and respiratory diseases as well as worms pushed the infant and early childhood death rate of slaves to twice that experienced by white infants and children.

So, things really sucked for slave children in 1860, but, hey, they were living with both parents! Yay! Ponies and glitter! On a side note, the current Republican Governor of Maine might like the child labor practices of that day, and Bachmann's dislike of the minimum wage law certainly seems like a hearkening back to the day when the job creators weren't hampered by pesky regulations regarding the welfare of the workers.

Anyone aware of the southern strategy will know damn well what Vander Plaats and Bachmann are up to here. Remember what Lee Attwater said:

You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968, you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

Lee Attwater's boss in the Reagan administration, Ed Rollins, is Michele Bachmann's campaign manager. So, it's not much of a stretch to realize that when they "sit around saying" black children had a better chance of having two parents when they were slaves, they're not being very abstract at all.

3 comments:

dsh_1961 said...

I think that my newest blog post, about racism & microaggression, will really resonate with you: http://debutopia.blogspot.com/2011/07/michelle-bachmann-racism-and-carpet.html#more

carbonchick said...

Excellent, funny post! I am a new follower of your blog.

carbonchick said...

Excellent, amusing and intelligent post! I am a new follower of your blog. Ponies and glitter!