Virginia Republican lieutenant governor candidate E. W. Jackson said that the American government has been worse for "the black family" than slavery was during an event on Wednesday to celebrate Juneteenth, the holiday marking the end of slavery. "In 1960 most black children were raised in two parent monogamous families," Jackson said, according to the Virginia Daily Press. "By now, by this time, we only have 20 percent of black children being raised in two-parent monogamous families with a married man and woman raising those children. It wasn't slavery that did that. It was government that did that trying to solve problems that only God can solve, and that only we as human beings can solve."
While many of Jackson's controversial statements are unique to him — that yoga can leave you vulnerable to satanic possession, that Planned Parenthood is like the KKK, that evolution isn't real because monkeys can't talk — this idea is not. Republicans have long been attacked for using welfare as a code word to rally racist whites — as recently as the 2012 election. You can't say the n-word anymore, GOP strategist Lee Atwater famously explained, but you can say you want to cut welfare, and racist whites will know what you're talking about. Think of this slavery-wasn't-all-bad theory as having evolved to counter that: It's not cutting welfare that's racist — welfare itself is racist!
In 2011, the Iowa evangelical group The Family Leader had Republican presidential candidates sign a pledge that said black families were better off under slavery.
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.
Since it is unfortunately not obvious, let's state for the record that under slavery, human beings were bought and sold at their owners' whims with little regard for their families. Slave marriages were not legally recognized.
Nevertheless, some conservatives have been eager to get actual black people to make this case. During the 2012 Republican primary, Herman Cain talked about how he left "the Democrat plantation." Allen West said in 2011 that the Democratic Party is a "21st Century plantation," with some black leaders being "nothing more than the overseers." At the Conservative Political Action Conference in March, a packed audience listened to a panel titled "Trump the Race Card: Are You Sick and Tired of Being Called a Racist and You Know You're Not One?," about how liberals were the true racists. This panel descended into chaos when a white supremacist and a liberal in the audience repeatedly interrupted the speaker to note that in the 1960s and 1970s, the GOP welcomed segregationists (the white supremacist and the liberal agreed on the history, but disagreed about whether this was a good move for the GOP).
Jackson urged listeners not to depend on government for freedom, but on faith. "We are founded on the principle of truth that our rights, our freedoms do not come from a government, a king, a president, a potentate... They came from almighty God; they come from our creator. And even while slavery still existed in this nation those words resonated in the consciences of the American people." That's a nice added touch — even during slavery people weren't that racist!
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.