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Black History Month 2010, a continuation | Guest Column
By D.T. MCCARTY
Carter G. Woodson and thousands of Black people attended the 50th anniversary of emancipation in the State of Illinois. He made collegial friends and persuaded them to form an organization to promote Black and history studies. Woodson sent out press releases across the country. The responses led to the establishment of an organization by civic leaders that would study the lives of Blacks in American life. They worked to change the way Blacks were portrayed in history books wherever they were mentioned.
Black History Month evolved as a time of recognition of Black life, achievements, contributions and lives of African Americans by constituent Americans across the country (see The Journal of the San Juan Islands during Black History Month, 2008, 2006 and earlier years. Visit www.asalh.org/blackhistorymonthorigins).
Is Black History Month relevant? History is always relevant for the future. Perhaps the question should be, “Have Black Americans permeated the American dream?”
An excited electorate has elected the nation's first African American president. The President is brilliant, well educated, (undergrad at Columbia University — my graduate school — and Harvard Law), articulate, and healthy. Those voters, energized as never seen before, anticipated bipartisan support for his stated agenda: health care reform, to change the way the politics of Washington, D.C. operated, and work in a bipartisan way with the defeated political party. The electorate did not appreciate the legacy that the Bush administration and the Republican Congress was leaving: Wall Street’s deadly hold over the country!
The president’s first job was to get us out of a deep recession which was rocking our country and therefore the rest of the world. The President applied the hard measures with stimulus money. Unemployment as of this writing is 16.5 percent for Blacks, with white unemployment at 9.7 percent. It is no secret that Blacks are still not fully integrated into the structure of American society. Maybe this follows the old adage that’s goes, "When whites get a cold, Blacks get pneumonia."
Today’s political climate is highly volatile: the GOP has not supported the President’s goal for the benefit of the people of this country. GOP senators voted against the stimulus bills and lied to the nation that the corrective measures were unnecessary and created unnecessary deficit spending.
MSNBC-TV called out these congressmen by showing excerpts of their statements and their actions with the people in their districts. Many were shown signing bills and/or holding mock checks representing the money received in their districts and the number of jobs created! There is published documentation showing the letters received by the Department of Agriculture requesting monies for their districts (Washington Times, Feb. 9, 2010; Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 10, 2010). This is blatant misrepresentation to issue a televised point of view that is patently dishonest.
These same GOP congressmen and women have voted against health care reform. On the other hand, the Democrats have not demonstrated the smarts to outmaneuver this. This issue goes to the core of a nation’s survival.
The issue of little or no coverage of health care is not an esoteric issue that happens across the mountains or just in Mississippi. It is right here at home. I’ve overheard a person downtown shout aloud in anguish and shared the matter with me when I exhibited concern. Do we care? People once cared. One governor stated he did not want reform because the Black people in his state would benefit.
It is clear that the GOP is interested in getting re-elected multiple times with taxpayers dollars, lobbyists' money, and enjoying the office benefits that go with congressional membership. One solution to the problem would be the institution of national congressional term limits.
After the election of Barack Obama, many whites began to talk of a post-racial America. Then, Sen. Reid, D-Nev., was quoted in recent book as referring to the President as a smart person who could switch to a “Negro dialect” if he wished. Reid was wowed by the candidate’s oratorical skills and believed the country was ready to embrace a Black president.
The GOP howled for the senator’s resignation or that he be removed from his Senate leadership position. Reid apologized to the President and the President accepted the apology without raising an eyebrow. I didn’t get upset. What educated Black person hasn’t heard remarks with outdated racial vocabulary in her or his lifetime? Why were the comments elevated to a national outcry? It did not rise to remarks made by the Republican Senate leader Trent Lott in 2002 when he stated that he had supported Strom Thurmond’s presidential campaign segregationist policies. He said if the rest of the country had followed Thurmond “we wouldn’t have had all of these problems over the years ...” He resigned from the Senate under a cloud on Dec. 20, 2002.
Why are the race-baiters continuing to call the President a foreigner? Hawaii has been a state in the Union for years and there is clear documentation of his birthplace. Why did Tom Tancredo, former congressman from Colorado, address the Tea Party convention, saying that the President “is a committed Socialist ideologue” who was elected because “we do not have a civics, literacy test before people can vote in this country” and railed against “the cult of multiculturalism”?
These assertions are clearly racially motivated. The Voting Rights Act of 1964 shored up the 15th Amendment to the Constitution because of literacy tests and poll taxes specifically targeting Blacks.
My article in 2009 noted that many white Americans had more optimism about race relations than they’d ever had. I still don’t.
— D.T. McCarty is a retired nursing administrator. She lives on San Juan Island.