Denial of reality is alive and well in Republican ranks. We have already seen how right-wing talking heads exploded at Michelle Obama’s words about the White House being built by slaves:
“That is the story of this country. The story that has brought me to the stage tonight. The story of generations of people who felt the lash of bondage, the shame of servitude, the sting of segregation, who kept on striving, and hoping, and doing what needed to be done. So that today, I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters — two beautiful intelligent black young women — play with the dog on the White House lawn.”
Bill O’Reilly said on The O’Reilly Factor Tuesday that Michelle Obama’s remarks about slaves building the white house were “positive,” but he couldn’t help but pull the old “slavery wasn’t so bad” thing, excusing slavery by saying the slaves were “well fed” and had “decent lodgings.”
Yeah. I’m sure they were all saying “Yippee!”
Watch courtesy of Media Matters for America:
Finally tonight, Factor Tip of The Day. As we mentioned, Talking Points Memo, Michelle Obama referenced slaves building the White House in referring to the evolution of America in a positive way. It was a positive comment. The history behind her remark is fascinating. George Washington selected the site in 1791, and as president laid the cornerstone in 1792. Washington was then running the country out of Philadelphia.
Slaves did participate in the construction of the White House. Records show about 400 payments made to slave masters between 1795 and 1801. In addition, free blacks, whites, and immigrants also worked on the massive building. There were no illegal immigrants at that time. If you could make it here, you could stay here.
In 1800, President John Adams took up residence in what was then called the Executive Mansion. It was only later on they named it the White House. But Adams was in there with Abigail, and they were still hammering nails, the construction was still going on.
Slaves that worked there were well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government, which stopped hiring slave labor in 1802. However, the feds did not forbid subcontractors from using slave labor. So, Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working as well. Got it all? There will be a quiz.
O’Reilly concluded, “I just can’t get rid of that history teacher thing. You know what I’m talking about?”
Oh dear. Look, it’s great that O’Reilly actually admitted to the facts for a change. We could say he could hardly do otherwise with both Snopes and Politifact ruling in FLOTUS’ favor, but we know better, don’t we? We’ve seen enough facts ignored on Fox News, after all.
Notice, however, how he said slaves “participated in,” not that they were “forced” to work on the White House. It’s not like the slaves had any say in the matter. And no, no matter how well you treat a slave, they’re still a slave. Their owners got paid. The slaves did not.
And seriously, how well are you really treating somebody when you’re owning them? The act of enslavement is itself an act of ill-treatment, to put it lightly.
While at least O’Reilly did not say, like Rush Limbaugh that Michelle Obama needs to get over slavery, it is ridiculous to add a “But,” as a way of excusing it, “at least they were treated well.”
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.