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Leading GOP hopefuls still insult Black Americans

Tony Bennis

As Republican candidates for president compete for the first votes in the GOP primary season, they have been exposed as having insulting views on slavery and the horrific reality of how brutal it was for Black Americans.

When questioned at a forum recently in New Hampshire, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley stunningly failed to publicly acknowledge that slavery was the true cause of the Civil War. Haley’s disconnected answer should be a disqualifying act of political cowardice.

Haley reacted to the voter’s question about the Civil War’s cause by suggesting that it was a difficult question. Actually, no, it’s an exceptionally easy question — the cause of the Civil War was the Southern states’ desire to continue with slavery. The vice president of the newly formed Confederacy stated that their reason for betraying America “rests upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.”

As a former governor of South Carolina, Haley is well acquainted with the undeniable racism that led to the Civil War. South Carolina was the first state to betray America and secede from the nation. South Carolina is where the first Civil War shots were fired. But Haley decided to choose cowardice over integrity and leadership, by initially denying slavery was the cause, because she, like virtually all the Republican candidates for president, was afraid to risk “offending” racist Southern voters who form the core of today’s GOP.

This is not Haley’s first failure to acknowledge the truth of slavery causing the Civil War and the vile pro-lynching history of the Confederate flag. A recent Associated Press report reminds us that while running for governor in 2010, Haley erroneously said that the Civil War was a battle between two sides fighting over “tradition” and “change.” Describing the Confederate flag, Haley said, “For many people in our state, the flag stands for traditions that are noble.”

When she became governor, Haley maintained her stance in support of the Confederate flag flying at the state Capitol — until after a young South Carolina white supremacist with Confederate flags in his house murdered nine Black church members. Then there was enough political pressure to force her to agree with the state legislature who voted to remove the flag, a flag that is literally anti-America.

More recently, Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, speaking in Iowa, stated his thought that a solution could have been negotiated to prevent the Civil War. It’s another insult to Black Americans. Trump, of course, is notorious for fantasizing that he is a great negotiator — but even for him this is extremely ignorant and insulting. Perhaps he would have suggested that Black people were slaves only on weekdays. Slavery was ingrained in the belief system of the Confederacy. It was not a negotiable topic.

Then there’s Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who for the last few years has been minimizing slavery and preventing high school students from learning true Black history. DeSantis, who ended his bid for the Republican nomination on Monday, appointed an education board that essentially said the history of slavery should be taught in a way that doesn’t upset white students. Wait, what? The brutal history of slavery is actually upsetting to Black students. When an aspect of history is upsetting, it is at least as critical to learn about it. In discussing Florida’s approach to teaching Black history, DeSantis issued one of the most ignorant and insulting interpretations of slavery. He stated that Black people, while enslaved, learned skills that benefitted them after the end of slavery. Oh, so, the horrific torture of Black slaves was actually a job training program?

DeSantis’ clueless comment also fails to account for the 95% of enslaved people who lived their entire life in slavery and never were able to use the “benefit” of their slavery “job training.”

Today’s Republican Party has completely abandoned the moral path on racism and Black history. The GOP loves to claim that Republicans are the “party of Lincoln,” because in the 1860s they were the party promoting the end of slavery. But that was 160 years ago. Unfortunately, the Republican Party has chosen to be the party that more closely resembles the Confederacy that declared war on America.

Tony Bennis is the founder and president of Synergy Media Partners.

GOP, Nikki Haley, opinion, Ron DeSantis, slavery