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More Republican Racism

In her speech at the Democratic National Convention last night, Michelle Obama beautifully talked about the progress that has been made in America:

That is the story of this country, the story that has brought me to this stage tonight, the story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, but who kept on striving and hoping and doing what needed to be done so that today I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.

And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.

And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.

So, look, so don’t let anyone ever tell you that this country isn’t great, that somehow we need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on earth!

But conservative media immediately jumped on one small part of one sentence “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves”, pulling it out of context to make it sound like Obama was complaining about slavery, rather than rejoicing in how far we have come as a nation. They also questioned whether it was true that the White House was built by slaves. Unfortunately for them, reality continues to have a liberal bias. Historians say that there is no debate about the use of slaves to build the White House, and many other buildings in early America.

Michelle Malkin claimed Obama “stretched the truth” and linked to an article that asserts that the government paid the slaves who worked on the White House”. But in reality, it wasn’t the slaves themselves who were paid, but rather their masters. That’s a big difference.

The conservative site NewsBusters quibbled about Obama’s statement by pointing out that the White House had been “renovated multiple times” since being built by slaves. I guess that is supposed to make it all better.

Bill O’Reilly on Fox News finally admitted that Obama was “essentially correct” about slavery, but then tried to excuse it by claiming that the slaves were “well-fed and had decent lodging”.

What bullshit. Washington DC was built on a mosquito-infested swamp, and the living quarters provided for slaves were “not much more than huts.”

O’Reilly also pointed out that the federal government stopped using slave labor in 1802, but failed to mention that the White House was finished before then. And even so, subcontractors continued to use slave labor on construction jobs for the government.

Why are Republicans so incensed about talking about slavery, to the point where they take Obama’s statement of hope and progress and try to either deny it or make excuses for it. Does it get in the way of their nostalgia for the old times, which they need in order to believe that we can “make America great again”? As Obama said in her speech, America, right now, is the greatest country on earth. Not despite its past, but in part because of it. We’ve come a long way, even just in the recent past.

Also published on Medium.



  1. ThatGuy wrote:

    + the article Malkin linked to was itself incorrect, conflating the known payment of one slave during construction of the Capitol building with the construction of the White House.

    Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 8:24 am | Permalink
  2. Hassan wrote:

    Did you guys miss Bill Clinton’s bigotry on muslims? Or perhaps white non-muslims cannot see how is it offensive to muslim?

    Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink
  3. Iron Knee wrote:

    Hassan, you mean this —

    If you are a Muslim, and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make the future together. We want you.

    Yeah, it was clumsy and I wish he hadn’t said it. And while it is clear that his remark was well intentioned, it definitely invokes bigotry. I can see how it would offend Muslims.

    I do have to disagree with one of the main complaints against it, though. His words are being twisted to imply that Clinton was saying that Muslims can only stay if they hate terrorism, and the rest should leave. He didn’t say that at all, and it is a too common logical fallacy to take “if A then B” and conclude “if not A then not B”. He didn’t say “If you are Muslim, don’t love America, and love terrorism, then you are not welcome here”. But even if he had, can you really disagree with that?

    Finally, Clinton’s statement is a far cry from the explicit bigotry of Trump and many Republicans (including those who propose bombing the Middle East until the sand glows), and criticizing his faux pas as “not different than Trump” is ridiculous.

    Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 9:01 am | Permalink
  4. Hassan wrote:

    Yes Trump bigotry is pure hate, while Bill was falling for generalization. Muslims should not be considered national security or terrorism expert (unless they are trained like anyone else). We do not ask white people to help us fight mass shootings, we should not expect muslims to know every other muslim and be responsible for finding and tackling them.

    Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink
  5. Iron Knee wrote:

    Yeah, as I’ve said before, it is stupid to take terrorism committed by Muslims and use it to indict all Muslims. Just like we don’t take all the terrorism committed by white supremacists and indict all whites.

    Clinton was *trying* to de-generalize Muslim from terrorism, but he was definitely ham-fisted about it. Sad, because his intent is a reason to praise Democrats, but his execution was flawed (and yes, bigoted).

    This is a big deal to me. I am probably less bigoted about Muslims than most people (my sister married a Muslim, I have attended Muslim services and even participated in them, and just yesterday I had lunch with a good friend of mine who is Muslim, and we of course discussed politics — among other things). But even so, I know I am not immune to bigotry (or racism or sexism). I freely (albeit shamefully) admit I have said and done things that are bigoted. We are surrounded by it, and it is hard to not be influenced by it.

    Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink
  6. Hassan wrote:

    Iron Knee, I find it quite refreshing and found you quite big person to admit one’s own faults. To me racism/bigotry etc is a sin that we can commit in moment of weakness. It does not make us permanent racist/bigoted. Specially when we do not act to make person of other race/religion/etc disadvantaged.

    Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink
  7. Hassan wrote:

    This is funny.

    Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink
  8. Ralph wrote:

    This is a bit off topic, but channel surfing in and out of the DNC coverage tonight, as I type there was a speech from a mother who lost a son in the Orlando shooting, now followed by Rep. Murphy just finishing up one on about the Sandy Hook shooting and the struggles with trying to enact sensible gun regulations. On CNN and MSNBC, that is. Surf over to Fox? Fla. Gov. Serpenthead being interviewed about his new role as head of Trump’s newly minted Super Pac (just like the ones he used to condemn in the primaries and would never have any part of).

    The former Police Chief of Philly is on the podium now, live!, and…surprise! watch Papa Bear on Fox interviewing two of his chums about Black Lives Matter and hitting the “main stream media” for their deceptions and dishonesty and for trying to destroy their network (literally, no details yet, but stay tuned). Kind of bizarre, actually. Losing Ailes is already starting to show perhaps.

    Here’s Mark Kelly now, husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, still impaired after her assassination attempt. But flip to Fox… VP nominee Mike Pence with Papa, waving the usual flags. Fox – Fair and Balanced! Yeah right, and I’ve got a casino to sell you.

    Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at 7:33 pm | Permalink
  9. Hulk wrote:

    Iron Knee,
    to take “if A then B” and conclude “if not B then not A” is not a fallacy at all, but a tautology.
    The common fallacy you refer to is:
    to take “if A then B” and conclude “if not A then not B”

    Thursday, July 28, 2016 at 1:40 am | Permalink
  10. Iron Knee wrote:

    @Hulk Dang, you’re right. My point was correct but I got the variables backwards. I fixed it. Thanks.

    Thursday, July 28, 2016 at 7:15 pm | Permalink
  11. Hulk wrote:

    feel free to delete my comments. 🙂

    Friday, July 29, 2016 at 1:50 am | Permalink
  12. Jonah wrote:

    Somewhat relevant, I found this to be the most powerful speech from the convention. Though its more of a rebuke of Trump

    Friday, July 29, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink
  13. Iron Knee wrote:

    Jonah, that was really good. It made me cry. Thanks.

    Amazingly, Khan’s speech was delivered without any notes and no teleprompter. Khan said it was “spoken from the heart”. And he is not even a registered Democrat.

    Friday, July 29, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Permalink
  14. Ralph wrote:

    I saw Khan’s speech live and it was indeed very inspirational and a total rebuke of Trump’s anti-Muslim diatribes. Of course, it didn’t take long for the likes of Ann Coulter to spew her typical vitriol afterwards, even stooping so low as to criticize his accent, tweeting, “You know what this convention really needed? An angry Muslim with a thick accent like Fareed Zacaria (sic)”.

    Even other staunch conservatives were taken aback by that one.

    That she continues to sell (the same) books and get any air time at all is a testament to how low conservative media and their followers have sunk.

    Saturday, July 30, 2016 at 8:24 am | Permalink
  15. Iron Knee wrote:

    I refuse to give her any attention.

    Saturday, July 30, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink