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My previous column “Drenched in blood of slavery,” that explained Democratic Party origins in defending and expanding slavery before the Civil War and promoting Jim Crow laws and the KKK after, provoked an avalanche of response.
I did not intend to re-fight the Civil War (as some readers thought) but to remind a history-deficient American public of the true backgrounds of the Democratic and Republican Parties.
The discussion was triggered by a resolution apologizing for slavery authored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, which unanimously passed the U.S. Senate.
Spineless Senate Republicans were unwilling to rise to the defense of the abolitionist origins of the Republican Party, or even mention that the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution (abolishing slavery, confirming citizenship for ex-slaves and guaranteeing the right to vote for ex-slaves) were passed by a Republican-dominated Congress in the years following the Civil War over the objections of the Democratic minority.
Republicans have nothing to apologize for on the subject of slavery.
If anyone should apologize for slavery (and Jim Crow segregation laws and the KKK), it should be the Democrats.
But it turns out an apology is not the real reason for the resolution.
The Congressional Black Caucus, or CBC, wants reparations paid to the descendants of ex-slaves.
The Senate resolution specifically prohibits its use to justify reparations. A similar House resolution, passed 11 months ago, opens the door to reparations. The CBC has criticized the Senate resolution.
The politics of the House resolution are very interesting.
Rep. Steve Cohen authored the House resolution. Cohen represents the 60 percent black ninth district in Tennessee, which includes Memphis.
The white, Jewish congressman won in 2006 in a field of 11 candidates for a seat once occupied by Harold Ford, Jr.
Cohen last year withstood a vicious race-based re-election campaign against him by black lawyer Nikki Turner, who, among other things, accused Cohen of supporting the KKK.
Cohen campaigned, vowing to join the CBC. After the election, the CBC denied his application to join, preferring to keep its membership “exclusively African-American.”
With Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton talking about the Cohen’s seat as “the only real opportunity to elect a qualified African-American to the all-white 11 member delegation representing Tennessee” in 2010, Cohen has swung into action as the champion of reparations.
Cohen’s dream was to present the Joint Resolution of Congress Apologizing for Slavery in a press conference under the capitol dome (constructed by slaves) just in time for the photos to be widely seen in the ninth district during the 2010 election.
Now, it looks like that’s not going to happen because the CBC objects to the Senate language barring reparations. The different wording in the two resolutions prevents a “joint resolution.”
The CBC had hoped that no one would notice the resolutions of apology opened the door to reparations in the same way as the post World War II apology to interned Japanese-Americans did.
Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Neb., did notice and inserted the language in the Senate resolution that bars the resolution from being used as the basis for subsequent legislation for reparations.
Cohen will have to find another way to pander to his black constituents to hold on to his seat in Congress.