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It's hardly a shocking twist, but it turns out Mitch McConnell's ancestors owned slaves. The Senate majority leader was asked at a press conference if this sobering fact might cause him to reconsider his opposition to reparations. His response was perverse yet predictable.

MCCONNELL: I find myself once again in the same position as President [Barack] Obama. We both oppose reparations and we both are the descendants of slave owners.

McConnell has previously used Obama as his "Get Out Of Reparations Free" card. He's claimed that because "we" -- not him, personally, but lots of other people -- elected Obama, we're all good on slavery and segregation. The receipt for compensation for centuries of bondage and racial discrimination is a 2008 "Hope" poster, apparently.

James McConnell and Richard Daley, the turtle's great-great-grandfathers, "owned" at least 14 slaves -- 12 of whom were women (we don't want to get into that). It is appalling but not surprising that McConnell would compare himself to Obama, whose father was Kenyan and mother was white. Racists like to use the former president's unique background as a basis to stiff the descendants of slaves. However, most living black people have slave-owning DNA because slave owners raped a lot of black people. It wasn't that uncommon for them to create more "property" through rape.


Michelle Obama's great-great-great-grandmother, Melvinia, gave birth to a child when she was 15. DNA tests revealed the father was likely the 20-year-old son of Melvinia's "owner." According to the New York Times, Melvinia never discussed whether she was "raped or treated with affection." When it's that unclear, it's probably not An Affair to Remember. Besides, it's literally impossible for someone you "own" to consent to sex with you. If you don't want future generations calling you a rapist, then don't enslave human beings.

There was longstanding controversy over whether Thomas Jefferson fathered children with Sally Hemings, the woman he enslaved until his death. (He was 44 and she was 14 when their "relationship" began.) Jefferson's white descendants refused to acknowledge their black relatives until DNA tests proved in 1998 that her kid was indeed his son. It probably wasn't all the rape they were embarrassed about. Hemings's children were the victims of slavery, and that will always overshadow any perceived "benefit" from their secret parentage. Michelle Obama might share DNA with people who exploited her ancestor, but she doesn't reside in the same moral universe as Mitch McConnell. Black people never inherited Tara, and we certainly didn't inherit the sins of slavery. McConnell's on his own.

If a German politician was confronted with proof they were directly descended from Nazis, they would most likely express remorse. They wouldn't try to compare themselves to people Nazis brutalized and oppressed. But Germans in general reckon with their shameful past, and don't erect monuments to it. And the scuzziest German today is still morally superior to McConnell.

We'd like to end with this somewhat dreary topic with a nice time: When Anderson Cooper appeared on PBS's "Finding Your Roots," Henry Louis Gates revealed to him that a rebel slave beat one of his ancestors to death with a farm hoe. Cooper stated without hesitation that the guy "deserved" his grisly fate: "He owned slaves. I have no sympathy for him. Part of me thinks that's awesome ... I feel bad for the man who killed him. And the 11 other unnamed people who God only knows what happened to them."

Well said. And Cooper never once blamed Obama.

Anderson Cooper Confronts a Dark History | FINDING YOUR ROOTS, Preview | PBS www.youtube.com

[NBC News]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He recently fled Seattle, where he did theatre work for Book-It Rep and Cafe Nordo.

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