Since before this country’s inception, black people have unwillingly, unwittingly, but absolutely necessarily, served as this republic’s proverbial “canary in the coal mine,” warning the wider — read whiter — public about impending danger. Deeper than a mere warning signal, though, and more to the point, black people have likewise always been the unheeded conscience of America.
The recent revelation of Ronald Reagan’s racist core is the latest case in point. These long hidden telephone tape recordings between the odious Richard Nixon and the still sainted Ronald Reagan, now, at last, have been revealed. These heretofore secret musings by both presidents have not a few Ronald Reagan worshipers clutching their pearls in bewilderment, disillusionment, and, in some hopeless cases, in outright denial of what their ears are actually hearing.
Yet, black people have known about and understood Ronald Reagan’s racism from the get-go. We knew, for example, from his first forays into national politics in the 1960s, as he abandoned his faltering career as a Hollywood B-movie actor, that there was something not quite kosher about this man with the avuncular, “aw shucks” and “gee whiz, mom” disarming persona.
It was at this critical point in history, of course, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the voting Rights Act of 1965, and 1968 Fair Housing Act were all vigorously fought over, fiercely debated and finally — finally — enacted. From beginning to end, both Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater did not merely oppose, but excoriated and condemned all of these efforts to bring black people fully into the American “family.”
As governor of California, this country’s most populous state, Ronald Reagan demonized and oversaw the destruction of the Black Panther Party in that state, including the railroading of political and social activist, University of California Professor Dr. Angela Davis.
As president, “The Right Reverend” Ronald Reagan preached his racist homiletics from the world’s largest, most politically sacrosanct “bully pulpit,” otherwise and also known as the Office of the President of the United States of America.
- Saint Ronald Reagan gutted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
- Saint Ronald Reagan fought tooth and nail against extension of the Voting Rights Act, after, as noted above, having fought its initial implementation for years. Eventually, under tremendous pressure, he finally did sign the extension into law.
- Saint Ronald Reagan vetoed the Civil Rights Restoration Act (which required all recipients of federal funds to comply with civil rights laws)
- Saint Ronald Reagan vetoed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act, which imposed economic sanctions on the white minority racist regime of apartheid South Africa. But simply opposing the Act was not good enough for Saint Reagan: He offered as his only reason for opposing it, the patently and demonstrably racist lie that South Africa’s black leader of the anti-apartheid movement and its most famous political prisoner, Nelson Mandela, was not only a Communist but a terrorist to boot. More? Indeed, not satisfied with putting only America on “the wrong side of history,” Saint Reagan even de-fanged a United Nations resolution condemning apartheid.
- Saint Ronald Reagan opposed the creation of a federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
- And, of course, in a purposeful, deliberate and obvious attempt to appeal to white racist voters of the south, Saint Ronald Reagan began his 1980 campaign for the presidency in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1963.
These were all public acts, policies and positions that the sainted Ronald Reagan proudly took. We no longer have to wonder who this man really was. We now have at least an inkling of what he thought, believed and said behind closed doors.
Black people are not usually ones to say, “I told you so.” But….