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.