The Republican National Committee's proclamation honoring Rosa Park's "role in ending racism" is continuing to receive the scorn and derision it richly deserves. As it turns out, the GOP's attempt to literally whitewash American history is hardly its first.
Consider, for example, the RNC's response to President Obama's 2010 nomination of now Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. Unable to prevent three-fifths of the Senate from voting on Kagan's nomination, the RNC instead suggested the Founders' three-fifths of a person standard for counting slaves was no defect. As The Hill reported, the RNC, including Michael Steele, objects to Kagan's citation of a 1987 Marshall speech in a 1993 tribute to her late mentor. Among the offending if self-evident passages from the 1987 address by Marshall:
[T]he government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today. When contemporary Americans cite "The Constitution," they invoke a concept that is vastly different from what the Framers barely began to construct two centuries ago.Even more alarming to the Republican mind than Marshall's spotlight on the early Constitution ("We the People" included, in the words of the Framers, "the whole Number of free Persons.") was Kagan's approving citation of his belief that the mission of the Supreme Court was to "was to "show a special solicitude for the despised and the disadvantaged." Inquiring conservative minds, the Hill reported, now want to know:
"Does Kagan Still View Constitution 'As Originally Drafted And Conceived' As 'Defective'?" the RNC asked in its research document. "And Does Kagan Still Believe That The Supreme Court's Primary Mission Is To 'Show A Special Solicitude For The Despised And Disadvantaged'?"For her part, Minnesota Congresswoman and one-time Republican presidential front-runner Michele Bachmann has acknowledged the Constitution's original sin of slavery. In January 2011, the Bachmann told Iowans for Tax Relief that America was founded on diversity and the Founding Fathers eliminated the "scourge" of slavery in their lifetimes:
"How unique in all of the world, that one nation that was the resting point from people groups all across the world. It didn't matter whether they descended from known royalty or whether they were of a higher class or a lower class, it made no difference. Once you got here [to the United States] you were all the same. Isn't that remarkable?...Alas, math and history are hard.
We know we were not perfect. We know there was slavery that was still tolerated when the nation began. We know that was an evil and it was scourge and a blot and a stain upon our history. But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. And I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forebears, who worked tirelessly, men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country."
John Quincy Adams was extinguished in 1848. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was not issued until 1863 and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which ended slavery was not ratified until 1865.
Of course, in the telling of Republicans like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Trent Franks and legions of others, there are many things at least as bad as slavery. That list includes the U.S. national debt, Obamacare, gun control, abortion and just about everything else conservatives oppose. As Franks put it in 2010:
"In this country, we had slavery for God knows how long. And now we look back on it and we say 'How brave were they? What was the matter with them? You know, I can't believe, you know, four million slaves. This is incredible.' And we're right, we're right. We should look back on that with criticism. It is a crushing mark on America's soul. And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more of the African-American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by policies of slavery."No doubt, that news would have come as a surprise to Rosa Parks.