White People Like Heidi Cruz Need to Stop Comparing Things to Slavery


On Tuesday, Heidi Cruz compared her husband Ted Cruz's failed presidential run to the fight to end slavery.

During a conference call with the campaign's National Prayer Team, Cruz told her husband's supporters she didn't want them to "feel like any of this was in vain."

"God does not work in four-year segments," she added. "Think that slavery — it took 25 years to defeat slavery. That is a lot longer than four years."

Ted Cruz's campaign can be compared to many things. The fight to end slavery is not one of them.

Sure, the urge to compare things to slavery is seductive — it makes whatever you're comparing it to seem serious and important. But it's also the most surefire way to trivialize one of the biggest human rights disasters in world history. 

So, white people, here's a free piece of advice: Stop comparing things to slavery.

Darron Cummings/AP

Here are some facts that should give you pause: The trans-Atlantic slave trade forcibly relocated and enslaved more than 12 million Africans between 1526 and 1867. An estimated 12% of those brought to the Americas on ships — almost 1.5 million — died on the voyage over alone.

Until 1865, when the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery was passed, black slaves in the US were not recognized as citizens. They were kept in horrific conditions, forced to work long hours for no pay and were subjected to routine physical and sexual abuse at the hands of white slave-owners.

America is still reeling from centuries of racial violence and exploitation in the form of persistent racial inequality — in schoolsemployment, income, criminal justice and more.

In other words, slavery was a human-rights catastrophe on a massive scale. It is not a rhetorical device for making your point more weighty. 

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This seems an especially hard concept for white political figures to grasp. 

In 2013, Republican New Hampshire state Rep. Bill O'Brien told a rally crowd that President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act — otherwise known as Obamacare — was as destructive to individual freedom as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

"It is a law as destructive to personal and individual liberty as the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that allowed slave owners to come to New Hampshire and seize African-Americans and use the federal courts to take them back to federal... to slave states," he said, according to the Huffington Post.

Gerry Broome/AP

In 2014, North Carolina Republican state senate candidate Greg Brannon likened food stamps to slavery.

"Eighty percent of the farm bill was food stamps," he said in a taped interview, according to Mother Jones. "That enslaves people. What you want to do, it's crazy but it's true, teach people to fish instead of giving them fish. When you're at the behest of somebody else, you are actually [in] slavery to them. That kind of charity does not make people freer."

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In 2015, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said paying taxes to the government was like being a slave.

"If we tax you at 100% then you've got 0% liberty," he said during a speaking engagement in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, according to BuzzFeed. "If we tax you at 50% you are half slave, half free. I frankly would like to see you a little freer and a little more money remaining in your communities so you can create jobs. It's a debate we need to have."

None of these things are akin to slavery. 

But Heidi Cruz's remarks and those of others indicate one of three things: These people don't understand what healthcare, food stamps or taxes really are; they don't understand what slavery is; or they do and just don't care.