The first actually isn’t against black people as much as it is part of a long standing attempt to revise the historical record with Reagan. Lou Cannon, David Brooks, and a couple of others have attempted this mission. This is part of a much longer legacy and can be also tied to the attempt to name at least one landmark in every state after Reagan. (While talking to a friend last week about business, I found out she was in D.C. and had just landed at “National.” I didn’t know where or even WHAT “National” was until I realized she meant “Reagan National Airport.” Old school DC residents don’t call it “Reagan” like the newer metro residents do…)
So his “argument” that Reagan’s speech for states’ rights made near Philadelphia, Mississippi to begin his 1980 Presidential campaign was NOT racist boils down to two simple components:
The mythology of Neshoba is wrong in two distinct ways. First, Ronald Reagan was not a racist. Second, his Neshoba speech was not an effective symbolic appeal to white voters. Instead, it was a political misstep that cost him support.
The reason why his speech wasn’t racist…was because Reagan wasn’t racist. But check this paragraph out:
As a sports announcer in Iowa in the 1930s, Mr. Reagan opposed the segregation of Major League Baseball. As an actor in Hollywood he quit a Los Angeles country club because it did not admit Jews. In 1978, when preparing to run for president, Mr. Reagan opposed a California ballot initiative that would have barred homosexuals from teaching in the state’s public schools. He was widely credited for its defeat. (Mr. Reagan was understandably anathema in the black community not because of his personal views but because of his consistent opposition to federal civil rights legislation, most notably the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.)
Consistent opposition. To legislation that was necessary (but not sufficient) to end racial terrorism. That was best symbolized by the murder of civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The place he gave the speech that has led to this controversy in the first place.
As for the second, there was a research report that the Democrcatic Party had conducted in the mid-eighties. They were trying to find out exactly why working class (white) voters were turning against the Democratic Party in droves, even though the policies of the Republican Party were anti-working class. So the people who conducted the report went to Macomb County (northeast of detroit) to interview folks at Lakeside Mall. What they found was so disconcerting they literally destroyed the report. The whites blamed almost all of their economic woes on the fact that the Democratic Party had been hijacked by blacks.
I don’t know how Reagan felt about blacks personally. But Reagan fought against black people’s political interests for all of his public career. Reagan was “understandably anathema” to black people because black people know racism, and supporters OF racism when we see it.
I hate it when literature professors try to act like economists. Hate it.
Can you spot the logical flaws in this piece? Suffice it to say that Gates doesn’t quite understand the nature of discrimination and the way that wealth built from land hamstrung black opportunity. He ends UP pointing to the black family, but his own data says that the big culprit is institutional racism that in this case withheld land from African Americans. Neo-accomodationism rears its head again.