Saturday, July 18, 2009

Rachel Takes on Pat: Many Hands Built America, Not Just White Men's Hands

Patrick Buchanan tells Rachel Maddow that white men built his nation (see here and here):

White men were 100% of the people that wrote the Constitution, 100% of the people that signed the Declaration of Independence, 100% of the people who died at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, probably close to 100% of the people who died at Normandy. This has been a country built basically by white folks.

But as those white men who wrote the foundational documents of the United States penned those documents, many of them—Jefferson chief among them—sat in houses built, brick by brick, by black men. They fueled their minds for study and writing with food grown by the labor of black men and black women in their fields and gardens.

They ate meals prepared and served by the hands of black women. They had the leisure to study and to write because black women cleaned their houses, spun the cloth for their clothes, tailored and mended their clothes, and raised their children, including unacknowledged sons and daughters by those same women of color. They prayed to God in churches erected by black men.

And white men built the country?

Is Patrick Buchanan so completely ignorant of the history of the nation he claims to love, that he really believes it was white men—white men alone—who built that nation? How does anyone ever achieve any non-material goal without a material base undergirding that non-material goal?

And whose labor produces that base? Whose unacknowledged labor has permitted men, century on century, to think, write, govern—do anything at all that goes beyond drudgery?

Thankfully, Rachel Maddow refuses to allow Buchanan's ugly racist nonsense to go unchallenged. And I have to conclude that her experience as a member of the LGBT community, a community whose countless contributions to the building of this nation are overlooked just as the contributions of people of color have been, engenders her critique of Buchanan’s racism.

Gay men and gay women have historically stood side by side with African Americans as both communities struggle for the American dream to be realized in their lives. It is tragic to see some members of both communities willing to permit the Patrick Buchanans of the world to play them against each other.

And it’s heartening to see some members of both communities refusing to permit that game to be played anymore. People of color and LGBT citizens have everything to gain by refusing to permit their solidarity, as marginalized minority groups, to be broken by those intent on playing the game of divide and conquer to assure their dominance over and control of others.