Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Reagan Revisionism, meet Alton Lister

When the media decided to rewrite Ronald Reagan's legacy after his death, one aspect that has really bugged me is omitting his racist tendencies as both governor and president. In this case, David Brooks decided to simply to make up his own version of history:
The distortion concerns a speech Ronald Reagan gave during the 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., which is where three civil rights workers had been murdered 16 years earlier. An increasing number of left-wing commentators assert that Reagan kicked off his 1980 presidential campaign with a states’ rights speech in Philadelphia to send a signal to white racists that he was on their side. The speech is taken as proof that the Republican majority was built on racism.
The truth is more complicated.
Brooks goes on to explain how Reagan was misunderstood, and it's this is just a scary story made up by mean liberals who want to tarnish Reagan's image. Well, good thing Bob Herbert is on staff at the same paper to take Brooks behind the woodshed:
On June 21, one day after his arrival, he (Andrew Goodman) and fellow activists Michael Schwerner and James Chaney disappeared. Their bodies wouldn’t be found until August. All had been murdered, shot to death by whites enraged at the very idea of people trying to secure the rights of African-Americans.
The murders were among the most notorious in American history. They constituted Neshoba County’s primary claim to fame when Reagan won the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1980. The case was still a festering sore at that time. Some of the conspirators were still being protected by the local community. And white supremacy was still the order of the day.
That was the atmosphere and that was the place that Reagan chose as the first stop in his general election campaign. The campaign debuted at the Neshoba County Fair in front of a white and, at times, raucous crowd of perhaps 10,000, chanting: “We want Reagan! We want Reagan!”
Reagan was the first presidential candidate ever to appear at the fair, and he knew exactly what he was doing when he told that crowd, “I believe in states’ rights.”
Context really is everything, not only for this one issue, but it bears pointing out that it fits in with the rest of Reagan's record on civil rights, as well as the ADMITTED RACIST TACTICS of his adviser, (and Karl Rove mentor) Lee Atwater. Herbert explains:
"He was tapping out the code. It was understood that when politicians started chirping about “states’ rights” to white people in places like Neshoba County they were saying that when it comes down to you and the blacks, we’re with you.
And Reagan meant it. He was opposed to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was the same year that Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were slaughtered. As president, he actually tried to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He opposed a national holiday for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He tried to get rid of the federal ban on tax exemptions for private schools that practiced racial discrimination. And in 1988, he vetoed a bill to expand the reach of federal civil rights legislation. Congress overrode the veto.
Reagan also vetoed the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa. Congress overrode that veto, too.
Throughout his career, Reagan was wrong, insensitive and mean-spirited on civil rights and other issues important to black people. There is no way for the scribes of today to clean up that dismal record.
To see Reagan’s appearance at the Neshoba County Fair in its proper context, it has to be placed between the murders of the civil rights workers that preceded it and the acknowledgment by the Republican strategist Lee Atwater that the use of code words like “states’ rights” in place of blatantly bigoted rhetoric was crucial to the success of the G.O.P.’s Southern strategy. That acknowledgment came in the very first year of the Reagan presidency."
Revisionist history of Ronald Reagan's views and record has been rampant since his death, and it's good to see a Shawn Kemp on Alton Lister style humiliation of Brooks for defending Reagan's disgraceful actions.

1 comment:

  1. it's funny, this morning in my African American Studies class we talked about women in civil rights and my professor brought up how as Governor of California, Reagan was the most adamant opponent of the Black Panther Party, namely Angela Davis b/c of her affiliation with the Communist Party USA. She went on to add how Reagan was basically a racist, and proved so throughout his presidency. I'm glad your latest post outlines multiple instances (just mere examples) of how Reagan disenfranchised the Black community. as bad as Bush is, I think Reagan might be the worst president since the turn of the 20th century, more because he was glorified as somehow being "America's President." yeah, if you're from Klansville, Mississippi in White County, in the United States of Amerikkka.