GOP Slavery Apologists Keep Proving Why We Need The 1619 Project
Last week, Louisiana GOP state Rep. Ray Garofalo walked into a rake while arguing for his own bill banning critical race theory from all levels of public education. He said, "If you are having a discussion on whatever the case may be, on slavery, then you can talk about everything dealing with slavery: the good, the bad, the ugly." But we're not discussing Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns. There was nothing “good" about slavery.
Republican state Rep. Stephanie Hilferty interrupted Garofalo to clarify that slavery was exclusively bad and ugly. This somehow proved controversial, and Citizens for a New Louisiana quickly labeled Hilferty a “RINO," because apparently there's no room in the GOP big tent for an unambiguously anti-slavery position. Citizens for a New Louisiana claimed Hilferty, appearing on CNN, twisted Garofalo's words and tried to “cancel" him (insert eye roll emoji here).
Martha Huckabay, president of the Women's Republican Club of New Orleans and a former delegate for the one-term loser, took things to another, gross level. She asked on Facebook: “What is Stephanie Hilferty doing here? Why is she trying to trap a Republican and twist his words? How does she 100% know there is 'no good to slavery' if none of us were around during slavery? Weren't some slaves treated really well? I know in the Bible they were."
Huckabay wasn't born in the antebellum South. She didn't fall through a rip in the fabric of time, only to be confused by all the free, uppity Black people who won't pick her cotton and give her horsey rides. No, she's a 21st century girl who is hella racist.
It's true that none of us were around when slavery was legal, but we do have personal narratives from formerly enslaved people. They uniformly hated slavery, because it was slavery. There's also the inconvenient reality that enslaved people kept trying to escape. Conservatives like to claim Black voters are trapped on the “Democrat plantation," but Democrats don't have to pass Fugitive Voter Laws to maintain a sizable Black electorate. We willingly support Democrats. Few Black people were willingly enslaved.
Huckabay suggests that "some slaves were treated really well." That's literally impossible. You can't treat someone well if you're actively denying them their freedom. If someone kidnapped Huckabay and kept her in their basement apartment, even with access to all the Netflix she could watch, she'd probably object.
Conservatives have even condemned socialism as a form of “benign" slavery. Freedom supposedly means everything to them, but apparently that only extends to entitled white people refusing to get vaccinated or wear masks. (Not suprisingly, Huckabay is an anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorist.)
Here's some more of Huckabay's "Song of the South" nonsense:
Frederick Douglass described the circumstances that prompted white people to brutally torture other human beings. It's a horror show.
A mere look, word, or motion,- - a mistake, accident, or want of power,- - are all matters for which a slave may be whipped at any time. Does a slave look dissatisfied? It is said, he has the devil in him, and it must be whipped out. Does he speak loudly when spoken to by his master? Then he is getting high- minded, and should be taken down a button- hole lower. Does he forget to pull off his hat at the approach of a white person? Then he is wanting in reverence, and should be whipped for it. Does he ever venture to vindicate his conduct, when censured for it? Then he is guilty of impudence,- - one of the greatest crimes of which a slave can be guilty. Does he ever venture to suggest a different mode of doing things from that pointed out by his master? He is indeed presumptuous, and getting above himself....
Louisiana did have the "Code noir," which white people often claim treated enslaved people almost decently. That's a stretch, as the code forbade enslaved people from carrying weapons, owning property, or gathering in large groups (the latter resembles current "anti-riot" laws targeting Black protesters). Despite the code, serial killer and New Orleans socialite Delphine LaLaurie infamously tortured and murdered enslaved people with impunity. In 1833, she chased an eight-year-old girl with a whip until the terrified child fell to her death off the roof of LaLaurie's New Orleans mansion. LaLaurie received a fine. The next year, a 70-year-old Black woman LaLaurie kept chained to the stove set a fire in a desperate effort to escape. Rescuers discovered a literal torture chamber in the attic where almost a 100 enslaved people were subjected to Nazi-style experiments.
Heaps of corpses, organs, and limbs. Slaves pinned to tables or cramped in small cages. Live bodies with their eyes gouged, fingernails torn out, ears hanging by shreds of skin, or their mouths filled with animal shit and sewn shut. People flayed of skin with festering wounds. Many accounts claim they found one woman whose skin had been peeled off in spirals to make her look like a caterpillar, another with her bones broken and reset so that she looked like a crab, and one more whose intestines had been torn out and knotted around the waist. Many of these victims (some claim there were up to 100) were supposedly still alive—putrid and starving.
That's pretty damn awful, but Huckabay claims the Bible says slaves were treated well except for all the slavery.
Of course, the Bible was written thousands of years ago. Slavery in America didn't start until 1619. Someone should come up with a “project" or something that would educate Americans on the basics.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."