Rep. Bachmann's Far-Right Family Pledge Argues Black Kids Were Better Off In 1860

July 08, 2011 1:24 pm ET — Alan Pyke

Behold the constituencies Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is willing to sell out to court the far-right Christian vote in Iowa: Muslims, feminists, the LGBT community, anyone irked by the idea that homosexuality is "a public health risk," and the porn industry. These attributes of the far-right social policy pledge Bachmann signed yesterday have been widely reported, but Jack & Jill Politics points out that the document may alienate the black community as well:

It's got some pretty rigid-sounding stuff, but there's also this extra-special piece:

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.

Given that families were broken up regularly for sales during slavery and that rape by masters was pretty common, this could not be more offensive. I mean, putting aside the statistics on this, which are likely off-base, I could not be more angry. When will Republicans inquire with actual Black people whether or not we're ok with invoking slavery to score cheap political points?

To answer that last question, "never" sounds like a good bet. When it comes to the exploitation and rewriting of the ugliest chapter of U.S. history, Bachmann's a repeat offender. To hear her tell it, the slave-owning Founders who wrote the Three-Fifths Compromise into the Constitution "worked tirelessly" to end slavery, and nobody ever got chained up in the belly of a boat and shipped across the Atlantic to work for free: "[O]ther than the Native Americans who were here, all of us have the same story," Bachmann told a Tea Party audience in February.

The organization Bachmann is empowering with her signature shares her fast-and-loose relationship with facts. The pledge's assertion that black children were better off being born into slavery cites this report in a footnote. But how can a report published in 2005, in which "the latest data" on black children living in nuclear families comes from 2004, support a conclusion about black families "after the election of the USA's first African-American President"? The report cites no statistics on black families in 1860 either. Its earliest numbers come from 1880. And as long as we're dignifying this ugliness with a thorough debunking, here's what the report actually says about the legacy of slavery in black families:

Ultimately, these problems likely have deep roots in the unique, sometimes traumatic, historical experience of the African American community. Orlando Patterson has eloquently argued that slavery and Jim Crow scarred male-female relations among African Americans in ways that continue to shape current marriages - particularly in the ways that slavery denuded Black men of their proper role as husbands and fathers, fostered promiscuity, and wove violence and domination into the fabric of male-female sexual relations among Blacks (and interracial relationships).