Friday, July 17, 2009

Black History, My History, And Arms Open Wide

Since I seem to be having the same argument over and over in the comments section regarding the racial history of the Republican and Democrat parties, I decided to just run through some history for anyone interested.

*History shows that Democrats fought to expand slavery while Republicans fought to end it.

*President Abraham Lincoln (the first Republican president) signed into law the Emancipation Proclamation.

*Republicans fought to free blacks from slavery and amended the U.S. Constitution to grant blacks Freedom (13th Amendment), Citizenship (14th Amendment) and the Right to vote (15th Amendment). Republicans also passed the civil rights laws of the 1860's, including the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Reconstruction Act of 1867 that was designed to establish a new government system in the Democrat-controlled South, which was unfair to blacks.

*Democrats who started the Ku Klux Klan that became the terrorist arm of the Democratic Party to lynch and terrorize Republicans, black and white.

*Democrats passed discriminatory Black Codes and "Jim Crow" laws; all the while fighting every piece of civil rights legislation from the 1860’s to the 1960’s. Democrats fought anti-lynching laws (called "The Klan Act"), and when the Democrats regained control of Congress in 1892, they passed the Repeal Act of 1894 that overturned civil right laws enacted by Republicans.

*Republicans founded founded the NAACP and historical black colleges.

*It took Republicans six decades to finally enact civil rights laws in the 1950’s and 1960’s, over the objection of Democrats.

*It was Republican President Dwight Eisenhower who established the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, enforced the desegregation of the military, sent troops to Arkansas to desegregate the schools (using the 101st airborne), and appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren to the U.S. Supreme Court which resulted in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education (which ended school segregation).

*You can believe or not believe that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican, but the fact is that most blacks were Republican at the time.

Ok, now that those facts are out of the way, let's move on to the Republican party after 1960. This is the time that I grew up in, in Mississippi, during the civil rights movement. I can say from personal experience that the Democrats I grew up with were still struggling with racism. The very important and best thing that happened was integration. In elementary school I was bused across town to a formerly all black school. I graduated from a formerly all black high school. This might give you some insight to why this issue is so important to me. It changed everything. Black children got to know white children. And what we discovered, through the innocent perspective of children, is that we weren't really different from each other at all.

Democrats of today love to tout Nixon's "Southern Strategy" as if it were written in the Republican platform. It wasn't. It is a theory that has been blown up into fact by Democrats. There are arguments on both sides whether it was a strategy or just one aide's idea to win the south, but nonetheless, it never defined the Republican party. People seem to forget that George Wallace (of "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever' fame), who actually did define racism, was running as a third party candidate as well. I'm pretty sure racists would have voted for him.

It is especially ironic when Democrats bring up Nixon and the so called "Southern Strategy" considering all Nixon did for the black community. They never seem to remember the fact that Nixon helped initiate affirmative action and did more to desegregate holdout Southern schools than any president since the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling. In 1968, a year before Nixon entered the White House, 68 percent of black students in the South went to all-black schools; just two years later, in 1970, only 14 percent did. I was part of that. I was one of the children of integration. The single most important thing done to end racism since the civil rights laws were enacted, was done under President Nixon, the one who supposedly used racism to win the Presidency. Funny how that worked out.

The mistake that Republicans made in the following years was assuming that blacks would vote Republican based on our ideas and issues. Republicans refused to acknowledge that there were still concerns in the black community that needed to be specifically addressed to them. We also never properly rid our party of people that were prejudice. We turned a blind eye to it in order to keep votes. But I haven't seen us making that mistake in a long time.

In the 80's Democrats tried to paint Ronald Reagan as racist largely because of his opposition to the government programs that many blacks had come to depend on since the sixties. But Reagan never believed in big social programs and believed in small-government solutions. Color had nothing to do with his belief. But he also failed to realize that addressing concerns and explaining convictions and reaching out to black leaders would have helped dispel any racist notions. His mistake was in not speaking directly to the black community. Making them understand that the polices of low taxes and smaller government help them along with everyone else.

The proof was in the pudding. Under Reagan more blacks rose into the middle class than in any other time in history. From 1982 to 1989 the number of blacks employed jumped from 9 million to 11.4 million, a jump of more than 25%. Black unemployment dropped 9% and the number of poor blacks fell by 400,000. Black-owned businesses increased from 308,000 in 1982 to 424,000 in 1987, a 38 per cent rise.

The biggest mistake Republicans made was not articulating those numbers to the black community every chance they got. There should have been a mantra of what Reagonomics did for them, as well as the rest of the country. Instead we let Democrats paint a twisted picture of Reagan as one who didn't care about the black community.

Republicans never answered the charges, never fought back and totally gave up on the black vote in the 90's.

I grew up in an ugly time, and yet a beautiful time. I saw the ugly face of racism, but I also saw the beginning of change. I saw a people, not afraid to face the fire, come out on the other side free, with opportunities wide open. There was still some tough times ahead, but the door was wide open and blacks stepped through it.

I am still amazed at all that has been accomplished in my lifetime. I am stunned that we came so far so fast. When I was in fifth grade my best friend was a black girl named Sondra. I've blogged about this before, so forgive me if you have read this, but at that time we talked on the phone for hours each day, yet we never played at each other's house. We never even asked. It just wasn't done.

20 years later my little girl never thought twice about having friends of color over to play. This was Dr. King's dream. This was what we hoped for. A time when blacks and whites saw each other for what we were, people who yearn for the same things; love, family, children, peace, and a belief that anything is possible.

40 years later we have a black President. We have had and have black Justices, Secretary of States, Mayors, Governors, and Congressmen, head of the RNC. Black and white, we live and work together. Despite all the problems, this is all truly wonderful.

What my posts have all been about is bringing the black community into our party. We do that by reaching out to you in the black community, by speaking to you, listening to you, by being a part of your experience. I just believe in my heart that Republicans would not only be a better party with you, but you would be a better community by supporting more than one party.

I'm sort of like the old boyfriend who once loved you so well and you loved too, but left you heartbroken. We are back at your door, asking for a second chance. Reminding you of what was good, and hoping that you might just take us back.