A few years ago, an Alabama legislator with congressional aspirations circulated a lengthy defense of the Confederate flag. That might have passed with little comment if he had not added that if the Confederacy was created to preserve slavery, it was OK because slavery brought heathen Africans to America, where they were introduced to Christianity and found salvation.
Although the benefits of a “Christian master” was one of the advantages pro-slavery advocates argued, records revealed that Christianity was more often used to control slaves than it was to improve their lives. White preachers admonished slaves to obey their earthly masters so their Master in Heaven would reward them. Slaves liked the story of the Exodus better, but “let my people go” was not on the list of master-approved topics.
So it followed that the legislator’s observations were denounced and his political career was over.
It’s apparent that an Arkansas Republican legislator, Rep. Jon Hubbard of Jonesboro, had not heard what happened in Alabama because it’s become known that he wrote a book — Letters To The Editor: Confessions Of A Frustrated Conservative — in which he said slavery was “a blessing in disguise.”
The immediate question that comes to mind is, “a blessing for whom?” Not for the slaves, who had to endure bondage, or for the freedmen, who struggled to survive after emancipation, and certainly not for the descendants of slaves, who faced decades of discrimination until the civil rights movement brought down Jim Crow.
Finding any “blessing” in slavery ignores the historical evidence. It is an insult to the memory of those who were slaves and to the many, black and white, who worked for their liberation.
Arkansas Republican leaders were quick to denounce what the legislator wrote and distance themselves from the notion of slavery being a “blessing.” Good for them. And good for all the others — Republicans, Democrats, independents and others — who spoke out against such an idea.
Our Constitution’s guarantee of free speech protects the right of someone to make such an idiotic statement, but it is the responsibility of the rest of us not to let such sayings pass unchallenged.