Friday, February 12, 2021

the last book I ever read (Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, excerpt twelve)

from Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.:

Reagan’s attack on affirmative action, his calls for constructive engagement with apartheid South Africa, his eventual evisceration of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, all in the name of color blindness, signaled a hard change in the tone and substance of racial politics in the country. Calls for law and order (and the war on drugs it would unleash), demands for smaller government, and pleas for personal responsibility as a replacement for government “welfare programs” became part of an arsenal of code words and dog whistles for white resentment and racist retrenchment.

If Black America knew exactly what Reagan and the Republican Party were doing, so did white America. Republicans passionately defended themselves against claims that they were racist, maintaining that one could make arguments for “states’ rights” without being a committed racist. When Jimmy Carter accused Reagan of injecting hatred and racism into the campaign after the Neshoba County Fair speech, Reagan, in a move all too familiar to many of us today, dismissed Carter’s “unfair” attack as “shameful.” Washington Post reporter Richard Harwood wrote that “there is nothing in Reagan’s record to support the charge that he was a racist.” The New Republic said Carter’s statements were “frightful distortions, and bordering on outright lies.”

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