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Response to Michele Bachmann

by Ruby Sales
Atlanta, Georgia

By now many people throughout the United States know that Michelle Bachmann stands by her outrageous historical lie that: "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...”

Bachmann’s statement is a malicious lie that dismisses the historical and contemporary struggle of African Americans to make something out of our individual and collective lives over and against the persistent injuries of White oppression. Her doctoring of the historical evidence ignores the pernicious presence and blows of systemic racial oppression against African Americans. Her charges hold the line on a tradition of White racist demagogues who argue that any systemic injuries that we suffer post slavery and post Civil Rights are really self-inflicted wounds that ooze out of an African American culture of immorality and pathology that is corrupt and salacious.

In her charge that African American families fared better during enslavement Bachman raises an old racist pro-slavery argument proposed by U. B. Phillips that dominated the White historical debate on enslavement for many years and extended throughout my graduate work at Princeton on Slavery, Reconstruction and Abolition. The proponents of this racist debate promoted the historical lie that African Americans were better off in enslavement in America than freedom in Africa because Africa was a barbaric environment, and slavery was a civilizing school for Africans that was composed of good masters who civilized the savage community of enslaved African Americans.  Bachmann's assault on the African American family holds the line on the pro-white and anti-black position that African Americans have always been our most moral and strongest selves when Whites had full control of our lives. 

First of all, it is absurd to argue that the community of enslaved Africans possessed the power to maintain their family ties and continuity in a system that organized its laws and created Para Military groups to reinforce the notion of African Americans as the captive property of White people.   

During enslavement, the community of enslavers sold African American children away from their parents and siblings. Parents kept alive the memory of their children and other relatives through the naming process.  After enslavement thousands of African Americans went in search of their parents, wives, husbands or siblings. The credit for the survival African American families during enslavement goes primarily to the grit and determination of the community of enslaved African Americans.

ENCYCLOPEDIA VIRGINIA reminds us that, “While the centrifugal forces of war pulled white families apart, black families found in the war a chance to bring their families back together after years of separation." Together African American mothers and fathers knitted out of the tattered and brittle threads of enslavement vibrant, care giving and resilient families and relationships that were a stronghold of African American, survival, advancement and resistance during the long days of segregation.

Ruby Sales is founder/co-director of SpiritHouse Project in, Columbus, Georgia. Ms. Sales also serves as a national convener of the Every Church A Peace Church Movement.

Published in In Motion Magazine July 13, 2011