Republicans ‘Became the Devil’ in Race Relations, Witness Tells Congressional Hearing

Republicans ‘Became the Devil’ in Race Relations, Witness Tells Congressional Hearing

A witness at a congressional hearing on reparations for slavery gave conservatives a much-needed history lesson from a witness on Wednesday.

Julianne Malveaux, an economist and political commentator, reminded everyone that both Democrats and Republicans have a long history of racism stretching out over the course of the nation’s history. But it is disingenuous to argue today, as some Republicans like to do, that Democrats are the real racists because the party was the dominant one in the South during the era of slavery and then Jim Crow:

“Wilmington, North Carolina, where brotherman over here wants to talk about, people want to talk ugly about Democrats. People change their ideologies. So the Democrats were the devil once upon a time. There was a group called the red shirts, which were the Klan. They were Democrats. However, the Republicans took that over. They became the devil.”

This comment seems to have been at least a partial response to earlier comments by both conservative witnesses and at least one Republican on the committee, Louie Gohmert, who spent their time trying to pin all the blame for slavery on Democrats. The point of this formulation is a bit hard to pin down, but Republicans who advance it seem to want to assuage their own consciences of responsibility for any ongoing racism in society that flows from the original sin of slavery.

Why assuaging that guilt somehow takes away Republicans’ responsibility as legislators to work on the reparations issue today is also unclear. The simplest answer is that they simply don’t want to.

As Malveaux said repeatedly, people and parties change ideology. Democrats, generally, seem aware of this point, and of the larger history. If they were not, there would likely have been no hearing on reparations in the first place. There certainly was not one when Republicans controlled the House of Representaives the last few years.

Watch the video above, via C-SPAN3.

Gary Legum

Gary Legum has written about politics and culture for Independent Journal Review, Salon, The Daily Beast, Wonkette, AlterNet and McSweeney's, among others. He currently lives in his native state of Virginia.