Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Since Reconstruction?

I was just reading a list of 10 less well known facts about Barack Obama, and was a little puzzled by the language used in fact number 4. It reads as follows

4: Obama is the third African-American senator since Reconstruction.

Reading up on the topic on Wikipedia shows that he is actually the 5th, but that's not what I'm wondering about.

The thing I'm wondering about is why they make the point of starting to count African-American senators at the time of the Reconstruction. Why not just go from the founding of the US. It doesn't make the number that much bigger. To be blunt, there isn't a whole swath of pre-Reconstruction African-American senators that people are trying to hide. Why make the distinction?

Wikipedia states that there have been 5 African-American senators, the first of whom was Hiram Rhodes Revels who served the last year of another senators term in 1870. He has been followed by Blanche Kelso Bruce, Edward Brooke, Carol Moseley Braun, and the aformentioned Barack Obama.

While it is true that all the African-American senators have served after reconstruction, it seems odd to say the he is the 5th African-American senator since reconstruction, instead of just the 5th African-American senator. If Obama were to become president, he'd be called the first African-American president, not the first African-American president since reconstruction.

And yes, I realize that the Reconstruction was a big time of change in the status of African-Americans in America, but I still don't see why you should start counting at that time.

End Post
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3 comments:

Chris_the_Blogger said...

I think because that was when African Americans could actually get elected to the senate.

Before that African Americans couldn't vote let alone get elected to the senate.

Esonlinji said...

I know that before the reconstruction African-Americans had no vote

My puzzlement is more that I don't like the type of suffixing that "since reconstruction" is an example of. Whenever a time limit like that is placed on something, it seems to diminish the significance of the claim. Take for example "You're the best blogger" vs "You're the best blogger this year". The first statement is more significant than the second, and in some cases will include the second statement. You only use the second where the best blogger is not the best blogger this year.

When I read something like "He's the fifth African-American senator since reconstruction" my mind automatically asks "Well, how many were there before reconstruction?", which in this case is zero, so why make the distinction.

Chris_the_Blogger said...

I get your point, and concede it.