Addison Gardner: Always Right
September 28, 2009
I lived in Georgia for most of four decades before moving to the Roaring Fork Valley.
My mother’s family was from New Orleans; she was born there, and I attended Tulane University. My children were born in Atlanta, and my grandparents owned a large farm – “plantation,” if you like – outside Thomasville in southwest Georgia.
I know the South pretty well, and I’m familiar with the cultural stereotypes that attach to anybody who has ever lived there.
I guess the confederate battle flag tops the list. Then there’s NASCAR and denim overalls, banjos, cornbread and grits. Oh, yeah, and those white, Wal-Mart-shopping porkers who drive pickups fitted with gun racks, lust after farm animals (when their sisters are out of town) and hate black folks.
Toss in a jug of moonshine, and we’ve about picked-clean the stereotypical cotton field.
Then there are those historical “red-state” political associations: Republicans have no use for “people of color.” Pay no attention to the fact that a Republican president emancipated the slaves, and that a greater percentage of Republican legislators supported the Civil Rights Act than their Democrat counterparts.
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Democrats founded the Ku Klux Klan, and Democrat governors barred the entrance to schoolhouses to little black girls with pigtails and frilly smocks. The Georgia of my youth featured a Democrat governor and segregationist, Lester Maddox, who waved a pickaxe handle at blacks attempting to enter his restaurant.
Robert Byrd, dean of the Senate – and longest serving senator in history – was a Grand Cyclops in the Ku Klux Klan, and, during WWII, he penned this letter to the segregationist Mississippi senator, Theodore Bilbo: “I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side … Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.”
Of course Byrd has recanted those philosophies for political expediency, but – unlike his colleague, Arlen Specter – Robert Byrd has never been a Republican, not even when he used the “n” word during a 2001 television interview and shocked everybody but his Senate colleagues and the press corps who humor him.
If that’d been Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott (R), instead of West Virginian Sen. Robert Byrd (D), the nation’s dailies would’ve been inked with retributive blood.
Neither party can legitimately claim the racial tolerance high ground. Has one party whipped its recent history of race-based subsidies to great effect and ridden that horse to political hegemony? You bet it has.
Does that mean political pandering is to be admired, government dependency is good, and Democrats have the best, long-term answers for achieving real racial parity in this country?
History teaches us otherwise.
We have spent trillions on Lyndon Johnson “Great Society” programs – “reparations” by another name – and still face pervasive poverty, soaring illegitimacy rates, and black kids who can’t get a decent education in America’s inner-city schools.
Obama sends Malia and Sasha to Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., but he buckled to teachers’ union demands that killed the district voucher program. Seventeen-hundred black kids lost their places at private schools – including those at Sidwell Friends. In effect, Obama barred the school door after his daughters got seats. Alabama Gov. George Wallace is smiling in hell.
Let me deal you some “racist” reality: When campaign contributions talk, black kids walk.
Republicans have long sponsored school “competition,” via voucher programs that would free inner-city kids trapped in failing government schools. So, which party is advancing the interests of black America, and which party is pandering to “special interests?”
The Department of Education – that Carter-era stillbirth – has been plagued by waste, mismanagement and ineptitude. Spawned by the same party that now champions “competition,” (when pushing its “public option” in health care) the D.O.E. is another example of the failure of federal Mastodons.
Why is “competition” a good thing when Democrats talk about government-run health care for people without insurance options, but a bad thing when Republicans talk about private school vouchers for people without educational options?
My favorite White House, press corps image – captured this past July at the “beer-summit” – features a shirt-sleeved Obama striding manfully down the garden stair to greet the press, while, in the background, Sgt. Crowley extends his arm and helps handicapped Professor Gates down the steps.
We will never bridge the racial and cultural divides in America, until Democrats stop waving “racism!” like Lester Maddox’s pickaxe handle.
It takes courage and action – not speeches – to bring about “change.”
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