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Baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron is a true sports legend.
Nothing can take that away.
His ability on the field and his demeanor off the field throughout his baseball career and after were impeccable.
If anyone has earned the right to comment on race relations in America, it is him.
But he’s still wrong when he paints Republicans with the broad brush of the despicable charge of racism.
Speaking to USA Today last week on the 40th anniversary of his record-breaking 715th home run, Aaron, now 80, blamed Republicans for the Ku Klux Klan of yesterday and suggested they are critical of Barack Obama today because of lingering racism.
“Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated,” Aaron said. “The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”
He also said not much has really changed in terms of race relations since he was chasing Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record and was inundated with racist letters and messages.
“We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go in the country,” Aaron said. “To remind myself that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record. If you think that, you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. There’s not a whole lot that has changed.”
Where to begin …
It’s amazing to me how the true history of the Ku Klux Klan has been distorted by the media and the popular political culture in a way that this violent, hateful, racist organization could actually be associated with the Republican Party, which was actually a major target of the Klan, while it served as the de facto military arm of the Democratic Party.
Let me give you a brief history of the Democratic Party, not according to me, but according to one of the most distinguished liberal American historians, Eric Foner, author of “A Short History of Reconstruction.”
I encourage every American to read the whole book, especially blacks, for the truth Democrats don’t want you to know.
Foner writes: “In effect, the [Ku Klux] Klan was a military force serving the interests of the Democratic Party, the planter class, and all those who desired the restoration of white supremacy. Its purposes were political in the broadest sense, for it sought to affect power relations, both public and private, throughout Southern society. It aimed to destroy the Republican Party’s infrastructure, undermine the Reconstruction state, re-establish control of the black labor force and restore racial subordination in every aspect of Southern Life.”
What occurs to me as I read these stunning words is how successful the Democratic Party has actually been in achieving those goals over the last 130 years. Today, it not only has “control of the black labor force,” it has control over the black vote – the very vote it sought to deny for most of those 130 years after the War Between the States.
The strategy has been so successful for so many years, Vice President Joe Biden actually cast this political slur just before the 2012 Democratic convention: Specifically, Biden told a gathering of black leaders that Mitt Romney, if elected president, was “going to let the big banks once again write their own rules – unchain Wall Street!” Looking around the room, Biden said in his best attempt at a Delaware drawl: “They’re going to put y’all back in chains.”
Few besides me were willing to point out the political irony of a proud Democrat making such an accusation so at odds with history.
This is why the late Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican. He understood the history. He recognized who represented political allies and political foes.
Here’s some more from Foner, who tells the story most Americans have never heard – that the Klan’s war was not just against blacks, it was against Republicans:
- “Violence was typically directed at Reconstruction’s local leaders. As Emmanuel Fortune, driven from Jackson, County, Florida, by the Klan, explained: ‘The object of it is to kill out the leading men of the Republican Party … men who have taken a prominent stand.'”
- “Jack Dupree, victim of a particularly brutal murder in Monroe County, Mississippi – assailants cut his throat and disemboweled him, all within sight of his wife, who had just given birth to twins – was ‘president of a Republican club’ and known as a man who ‘would speak his mind.'”
- “On occasion, violence escalated from the victimization of individuals to wholesale assaults on the Republican Party and its leadership. In October 1870, after Republicans carried Laurens County, in South Carolina’s Piedmont belt, a racial altercation at Laurensville degenerated into a ‘negro chase’ in which bands of whites drove 150 freedmen from their homes and committed 13 murders. The victims included the newly elected white probate judge, a black legislator and others ‘known and prominent as connected with politics.'”
- “Founded in 1866 as a Tennessee social club, the Ku Klux Klan spread into nearly every Southern state, launching a ‘reign of terror’ against Republican leaders black and white. Those assassinated during the campaign included Arkansas Congressman James M. Hinds, three members of the South Carolina legislature, and several men who had served in constitutional conventions. In Louisiana, even moderate ex-Governor Hahn by October complained that ‘murder and intimidation are the order of the day in this state.’ White gangs roamed New Orleans, intimidating blacks and breaking up Republican meetings. In St. Landry Parrish, a mob invaded the plantations, killing as many as 200 blacks. Commanding Gen. Lovell Rousseau, a friend and supporter of the president, refused to take action, urging blacks to stay away from the polls for self-protection and exulting that the ‘ascendance of the negro in this state is approaching its end.'”
Not only are today’s Democrats lying about themselves and their opponents. They are telling a story that is the polar opposite of the truth.
And some people are buying it – including Hank Aaron.
But that shouldn’t be too surprising because the disinformation has been so thick even many Republicans don’t know the real story.
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