“honest history” for Texas social studies standards?

In her testimony Wednesday night, November 18, before the Texas State Board of education, Carole Haynes (phonetic) helpfully informed the Board members that

There has been so much controversy over the Civil Rights [legislation], … and the truth was, Republicans voted for it and the Democrats voted against it. … We need to set that record straight again, because it’s a social issue that divides us. … and if we will set that straight in our classrooms, and explain what really happened, then we get away from this blaming, … Let’s try to find a way the heal, by setting the record straight, by having honest history.

Click here to play the audio — or right-click to download the mp3 file — or click the image at left for a page with links for audio and video of this clip, and of her entire presentation and colloquy with the Board members.

We wonder where “Dr. Haynes” (as she was addressed) came up with such information to “set the record straight,” for “having honest history.”  Not that any of the Texas Board members thought to ask about her sources, even though they did engage her for several minutes, welcoming her statements as the type of “testimony” that they wanted to hear.

Board members who get their information from the same media as does “Dr. Haynes” might have no reason to ask, since this information about how civil rights attained legal protection would not have been news to them. The same “honest history” has been proclaimed by North Carolina’s Virginia Foxx on the floor of Congress, when she asserted that

… we [Republicans] were the people who passed the civil rights bills back in the ’60s without very much help from our colleagues across the aisle. They [i.e., the Democrats] love to engage in revisionist history.

Bill Ames

Congresswoman Foxx is complaining about “revisionist history,” the same evil that the right-wing testifiers were railing against in their testimony before the SBOE (click here for audio of SBOE member Knight questioning testifier Bill Ames on this).

The story is told with more specific details in this radio ad, which was fielded to support Republican candidate Michael Steele (now chair of the GOP National Committee) in his bid for election to the Governorship of Maryland. In this ad, one young African-American is surprised and shocked to learn from her friend how “Democrats have bamboozled Blacks” with their revisionist history, which has kept young Blacks from knowing such historical facts as the fact that

  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican
  • Democrats passed those Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws
  • Democrats fought all Civil Rights legislation from the 1860’s to the 1960’s
  • and the “Dixiecrats” ? … remained Democrats and vowed to vote for a yellow dog before a Republican

.            .“You know it, girl!”

If you aren’t old enough to remember those realities from your own personal lifetime, and you somehow got a different picture of what happened, maybe that’s because the liberals crammed their revisionist history down your throat in school, to “bamboozle” you — to keep you from knowing about this “honest history.”

On the other hand, what if you are old enough to remember the ’60s — like I am, and like Virginia Foxx is … ?

In June 1964 I turned 14 years old. A week later, Virginia Foxx turned 21. A week after that, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law, with Senator Barry Goldwater having voted against it. And by the end of the summer, Goldwater was the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States, with his opposition to the Civil Rights legislation being front and center in his party’s campaign for the Presidency.

One difference between those ages is that a 21-year-old was old enough to vote; a 14-year-old was not. (At 18, I was still too young to vote in 1968 — the voting age was lowered to 18 after that.) As a 14-year-old who didn’t have a vote, I was certainly aware of the opposition to Civil Rights legislation by Goldwater and his supporters in the GOP. I find it hard — impossible, really — to believe that Virginia Foxx, who would be casting her first vote, was not also aware of this.

In fact, Goldwater was not only opposed to the legislation, he was even opposed to the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, — which he not only opposed, but actually denied as having Constitutional status as the “supreme law of the land.” In his campaign book The Conscience of a Conservative (published and republished from 1960 through to the campaign, and continuing as a classic favorite in GOP circles through today), Goldwater explained his position:

[p. 21] … the federal Constitution does not require the States to maintain racially mixed schools. Despite the recent holding of the Supreme Court, I am firmly convinced—not only that integrated schools are not required—but that the Constitution does not permit [p. 22] any interference whatsoever by the federal government in the field of education. It may be just or wise or expedient for negro children to attend the same schools as white children, but they do not have a civil right to do so which is protected by the federal constitution, or which is enforceable by the federal government.

* * *

The [p. 23] amendment was not intended to, and therefore it did not outlaw racially separate schools. It was not intended to, and therefore it did not, authorize any federal intervention in the field of education.

I am therefore not impressed by the claim that the Supreme Court’s decision on school integration is the law of the land. The Constitution, and the laws “made in pursuance thereof,” are the “supreme law of the land.” The Constitution is what its authors intended it to be and said it was—not what the Supreme Court says it is. If we condone the practice of substituting our own intentions for those of the Constitution’s framers, we reject, in effect, the principle of Constitutional Government: we endorse a rule of men, not of laws.

* * *

It so happens that I am in agreement with the objectives of the Supreme Court as stated in the Brown decision. I believe that it is both wise and just for negro children to attend the same schools as whites, and that to deny them this opportunity carries with it strong implications of inferiority. I am not prepared, however, to impose that judgment of mine on the people of Mississippi or South Carolina, or to tell them what methods should be adopted and what pace should be kept in striving toward that goal. That is their business, not mine. I believe that the problem of race relations, like all social and cultural problems, is best handled by the people directly concerned. Social and cultural change, however desirable, should not be effected by the engines of national power. Let us, through persuasion and education, seek to improve institutions we deem defective. But let us, in doing so, respect the orderly processes of the law. Any other course enthrones tyrants and dooms freedom.

It is simply not possible to believe that Virginia Foxx did not know that the Civil Rights Act was enacted with the leadership of Lyndon Johnson, and signed into law by him, against strong opposition by Goldwater and other Republicans, as well as Southern Democrats. But the “Dixiecrats” who carried the racialist legacy of their party from the days of Thomas Jefferson to Woodrow Wilson realized that there was no place for their racial politics in the Democratic Party of the 1960’s and beyond. Lyndon Johnson is reported to have said that his party’s support for civil rights would cost them the South for a generation. The Republicans adopted a “Southern Strategy” seeking support from white southerners defecting from the new pro-equal rights Democratic Party. The Republicans not only welcomed segregation supporters like Strom Thurmond into the GOP, but embraced them with open arms, seniority, and committee chairmanships. Today, Republicans are led by the generation of Trent Lott, who entered politics through the circles of the Southern White Citizens Councils, and as late as 2002 proclaimed that he was proud of voting for Thurmond’s pro-segregationist Presidential bid, and expressed regret that Thurmond had not won.

As Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen writes in his post on the Virginia Foxx incident on Alternet:

As the party shifted, the Democratic mainstream embraced its new role. Republicans, meanwhile, also changed. In the wake of LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act, the Republican Party welcomed the racists who no longer felt comfortable in the Democratic Party. Indeed, in 1964, Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater boasted of his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, and made it part of his platform. It was right around this time when figures like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond made the transition — leaving the Democratic Party for the GOP.

In the ensuing years, Democrats embraced its role as the party of diversity, inclusion, and civil rights. Republicans became the party of the “Southern Strategy,” opposition to affirmative action, campaigns based on race-baiting, vote-caging, discriminatory voter-ID laws, and politicians like Helms, Thurmond, Pat Buchanan, and Virginia Foxx.

Black voters were not confused about these things in 1964. As noted by the Washington Post in its obituary, Goldwater

. . . voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, contending that it was unconstitutional, and he backed restrictive amendments to earlier civil rights legislation. Blacks voted overwhelmingly against him in 1964.

Yet, Republicans keep repeating their bet that Blacks will be uninformed enough to fall for their revisionist mythology — like those Black girls in the radio commercial, acting as confused as Foxx is acting about the facts of history.

Yes, we all know that Abraham Lincoln was Republican, and that Strom Thurmond entered politics as a Democrat. But that doesn’t represent the values, the commitments, or the orientations of the two parties today.

Yet, Republicans keep pumping out their revisionist misrepresentations, such as in the 2005 Republican Freedom Calendar reported on in Alternet January 17, 2005:

One-sided history would be expected, I suppose, if the Republican Freedom Calendar were a campaign flyer. But the calendar is a government publication prepared by the Policy Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Like the Education Department’s contract with black commentator Armstrong Williams, the Republican Freedom Calendar represents an alarming use of taxpayer dollars for Republican propaganda aimed primarily at African Americans.

Although candidate Michael Steele, to his credit, called for the radio ad to be withdrawn, he has himself continued the same strategy as Chairman of the GOP — as in the “beyond cutting-edge,” “hip” website he’s had put up featuring a representative array of GOP heroes. (Click here or on the image at left for a full-sized view of the page 1 contents. Remarkably, as of today the site is still available at http://www.gop.com/index.php/learn/heroes/?page=1, despite reports on its dishonesty [e.g., on The Huffington Post, documenting that Jackie Robinson was not a Republican]).

Carol Haynes and Bill Ames purport to be engaged in fighting against revisionist history. But if “revisionism” means anything at all, it must apply to false narratives spun to entrap children into a stultifying fog of political ideology and historical mythology.

Up to this point, we are hearing this from the Texas “testifiers,” and not from the Board members, themselves. Will the Board come clean, and honest, to the final Standards? It’s not too late … although their already-announced lack of interest in getting input from historians and educators cannot be a hopeful sign.

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4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] earlier post here begins: In her testimony Wednesday night, November 18, before the Texas State Board of education, […]

  2. […] true, but which, in isolation from the history, is despicably dishonest and misleading (see here and […]

  3. […] to completely change the history of the civil rights movement in their last hearing on the topic.  According to Haynes, apparently, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was opposed to civil rights and Barry … — the Board didn’t offer to correct her revisionism, but instead asked her to go beyond […]

  4. […] of many instances is featured here, (along with a link to Rachel Maddow / Kent Jones’ “get to know Virginia Foxx” […]

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