The language of the Tea Party has consisted mostly of thinly-veiled animosity thrust toward the black man in the Oval Office who doesn't seem to know his place. The idea of "taking back America" and "returning America to its roots," can be translated to saying that America isn't a country that's supposed to be run by that " hoity-toity, high fallutin, black guy with the Muslim name."
So, what better way to celebrate new-found Republican power than to read the United States Constitution out loud in the chambers of Congress? Sure, we might bore the heck out of a few lawmakers and waste a day that could be spent doing something productive, but why aim for substance when symbolism is a far better marketing tool?
Most interesting is that those who seemed so enthusiastic about reading the Constitution were not so eager to read the parts of the document that made reference to slavery. They also skipped sections that reminded them that women were not allowed to vote, or that the country once considered black people to be three-fifths of a person. Their decision to overlook the political poison on which they've been feeding is reflective of their insistence that their attacks on Obama and black America have nothing to do with race. So, as the Right Wing seeks to restore its connection to the founding fathers of this nation, they are less than willing to admit that they've also inherited the crippling biases that plagued those who wrote the document they worship so much. In other words, they are saying "I inherited all the good genes from my father, but none of the bad ones."
Let's break it down in an honest way: The relentless pursuit of liberty and American freedoms that Tea Partiers, Birthers and Right Wingers claim to embrace came from the revolutionary spirit instilled by America's founders. America is one of a small number of countries in the world where all of us are free to express our discontent with political leaders without fear of significant retribution. At the same time, the lynch mob mentality that Tea Partiers have used to attack the first black president and paint him as an unqualified, bumbling, unAmerican buffoon was also inherited directly from those who once dragged black men out of their homes and burned them alive in front of their families. So, the Tea Partiers, Birthers and a large portion of the Right Wing represent some of the most beautiful traditions in American history, as well as some of the ugliest.
To members of the Republican Party: If you're going to read the Constitution out loud, read the entire thing and read it with full accountability. You cannot inherit the assets of an institution without also taking on its liabilities. Intelligent conservatives understand in the back of their minds, that America owes reparations to African Americans, that it has not treated us fairly for 400 years, and that the two-tiered society in which we live was created and sustained by traditions similar to the ones they are celebrating right now. If you are truly committed to making America great, you will honestly confront the sins of your father and make amends, rather than selectively altering language in order to pretend that your father was perfect. You can't make genuine progress on America's future by maintaining a dishonest and delusional view of its past. That's as illogical as Sarah Palin trying to become president.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action Resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.