This post originally appeared in the Siloam Springs Herald Leader in my weekly column, "All That Jazz"
I love following this Tumblr site called, “Yo, Is This Racist?”. You can go read for yourself at YoIsThisRacist.com. The author of the site allows people to email and comment on a various number of topics and and he responds to their questions. He posits about Columbus Day, Yachting, and a myriad of random things that people ask, “Is this racist.” It is certainly an interesting perspective on social interactions and you are bound to giggle. The things people ask about are, to me, very easy to answer yes or no to. It is either racist or it isn’t. Which brings me to recent events. Lately Arkansas State Representative Jon Hubbard has been in the news because of his book. Hubbard’s book was totally off my radar until he made headlines on Huffington Post concerning the condition of African Americans and slavery. Hubbard, a Republican from Jonesboro, makes some very interesting assertions in his book. Among his assertions: Slavery was “a blessing” for African-Americans and schools are hurting because of desegregation. He pontificates that African-Americans/Blacks do not contribute to our communities and therefore drain society. He also wraps his heinous statements up with a lovely statement that Blacks had it much better in slavery than we ever would have had in Africa...and therefore we should embrace this blessing in disguise that God has provided us.
Beyond the blatantly racist comments I was intrigued with the dialogues that are born of this book and media attention. I see White individuals interjecting, “But what he really means...” or “There is a some truth that things would have been harder in Africa...” Um. WHAT!? For real? Are we really having a conversation about God’s sovereignty and that maybe, just maybe God allowed African-American slavery and Middle Passage to happen so that we could embrace the legacy as overcoming and hearty Americans? Regarding slavery, as seen in the Huffington Post, Hubbard wrote: “… the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth.” (Pages 183-89) Sweet! We Blacks have been looking at it the wrong way. Slavery was just our very own unique way to earn our citizenship. We couldn’t have immigrated like people from other countries, we just got the luck of the draw and were “blessed” to be tortured and enslaved and treated like less than second class citizens, only to fight our way (with our White friends and allies) to Emancipation. Hubbard speaks about African- Americans/ Blacks as if we are atemporal. We aren’t the same people who were ripped from our home in Africa. Simultaneously he chides (present) African-Americans to embrace and live the “blessing” of (past) African- Americans, because (present) African-Americans have it better than (past) African-Americans did when they were kidnapped, forced to work, and eventually died thousands of miles from their home. Confused yet? Me too! You’ll excuse me, Mr. Hubbard, if I don’t embrace your theory of blessing in disguise. Hubbard makes these statements even more awesome by also explaining that he is a Christian who is going to defend Christian principles for Arkansas.
I am deeply saddened that we still have men like this representing us in our government. Please don’t try to defend this man’s statements. They are indefensible. Please don’t enter into a narrative about Sub-Saharan African conditions compared to American conditions 300 years ago. Please don’t quote me test scores of schools that have high African-American populations. This should’t be a debate. If we submitted this to, “Yo, Is This Racist?” the answer would be a resounding and unequivocal “YES!” YES, Jon Hubbard’s statements are racist and if you share them you are engaging in racism. We should be very ashamed of men who spew statements like this in leadership, and especially under the moniker of “Christian”. In related news: Can we stop electing racists to legislate our state?