You would presume that with all of their citations of the Constitution and remembrance of the founding fathers, Tea Party candidates would understand history at least a little bit. But that's apparently not the case with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) who said that the founding fathers ended slavery in the United States.
In a recent speech in Iowa, Bachmann said that it was "the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States....Men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country."
The problem for Bachmann is that John Quincy Adams died in 1848, 15 years before slavery was abolished with the Emancipation Proclamation. Also, most of the founding fathers did own slaves, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. In fact, one of the signers, James Monroe, executed 30 of his slaves after they tried to revolt for their freedom. George Washington also had teeth implanted into his mouth that were taken out of the mouths of his slaves.
This is not the first time that members of the Tea Party have revealed that ignorance serves as as the driving force behind their peculiar political agenda. Just recently, Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin mistakenly cited North Korea as American allies. There was also Tea Party Candidate Christine O'Donnell, who didn't know that the First Amendment of the Constitution establishes the separation of church and state.
Two great American traditions on which the Tea Party Express stands are that of racial animosity and lynch mob behavior. Former President Jimmy Carter noted that much of the anger being directed toward the nation's first black president, fueled by Tea Party interests, is largely driven by race.
"I think people who are guilty of that kind of personal attack against Obama have been influenced to a major degree by a belief that he should not be president because he happens to be African American. It's a racist attitude, and my hope is and my expectation is that in the future both Democratic leaders and Republican leaders will take the initiative in condemning that kind of unprecedented attack on the president of the United States," Carter said.
When it comes to understanding America's present, we must be honest about the nation's past. The founding fathers were amazing men who did great things, but they were also part of the collection of men and women who beat, raped, castrated, lynched and destroyed black families for over 400 years. So, within the context of my love and appreciation for America, I must also be clear in stating that the men and women who were presented in high school to me as great American heroes are not, cannot, shouldn't and won't ever be significant heroes of mine.
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.