Fact check confirms controversial history of kente cloths worn by Pelosi, congressional Dems

A recent photo op by congressional Democrats is making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

In a report published Wednesday, Breitbart revealed that fact checks have confirmed allegations that the scarves worn by the likes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) during a recent demonstration on the floor of the U.S. Capitol “are linked to an empire that sold and traded enslaved Africans.”

The hard truth

With traditional Ghanaian kente cloths around their necks, a small group of congressional Democrats took a knee on June 8 in a demonstration meant to show solidarity with protesters upset about the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police last month — but as NPR reports, the move quickly drew headlines and “sparked controversy online.”

According to Breitbart, a Facebook user named Dave Brandon first alleged on June 9, the day after Dems’ photo op, that the cloth “was worn by the Ashanti,” a group that he said were “known as slave owners and traders.”

Breitbart included in its report an excerpt from a USA Today fact check that determined Brandon’s claims about the fabric’s origins were accurate.

“We rate the claim that kente cloth was historically worn by the Asante people of Ghana, who were involved in the West African slave trade TRUE because it is supported by our research,” the paper conceded. However, the paper also said he “ignores the broader cultural significance the cloth has to West African and African American culture.”

“Although kente cloth does have ties to slavery, it is more widely recognized as a modern symbol of pride in African American culture and pride in cultural ties to West Africa,” the USA Today report notes.

The bottom line

Notably, the BBC reports that the kente cloths were “given out to the congressmen and women by the Congressional Black Caucus.” Still, not everyone on Capitol Hill was pleased with the move. As Breitbart reported, South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott, who is black, hit back at longtime Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin (IL) after he reportedly dismissed a new bill from the Republican as a “‘token’ approach.”

According to NPR, a New Yorker article “called the photo op ‘outright mockery,’ while Robin Givhan of The Washington Post noted that it ‘muddied the current conversation about race’ by creating a distraction from the real issue: the history of racist police violence in the United States.”

It remains to be seen if those on the left will be willing to let this alleged “mockery” slide.

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