Buzzwords from the Southern Manifesto
Through the years
It’s not difficult to understand why Romney made the comments he made at his fundraiser in Florida.
He most likely got his buzzwords confused. His reference was to those who had been characterized as lazy, shiftless, and always looking for a handout. You don’t have to be a literary genius to figure that one out.
Unfortunately, since the inception of the Southern Manifesto of 1956, which stated in principle that it’s purpose was to overturn the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling and to effectively fight any legislation proposed to benefit Blacks, most election rhetoric has supported that premise.
The manifesto was signed by 99 politicians (97 Democrats) from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Since that time, each and every national election has had its racial overtones.
Street crime and welfare-reform buzzwords were designed to inform White voters that the candidate was in lock-step with the principles of the Southern Manifesto.
In 2008, there were “hard-working Americans.” The reference to people sitting on their asses and waiting for a check was ascribed to Black voters. The prevailing belief was that most government-sponsored social programs (“entitlements”) were designed to benefit Blacks and Blacks alone.
Some conservative critics of federal social programs, including leading presidential candidates, are sounding an alarm that the United States is rapidly becoming an “entitlement society” in which social programs are undermining the work ethic and creating a large class of Americans who prefer to depend on government benefits rather than work.
A new Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of budget and Census data, however, shows that more than 90 percent of the benefit dollars that entitlement and other mandatory programs spend go to assist people who are elderly, seriously disabled, or members of working households, not to able-bodied, working-age African Americans who choose not to work.
More importantly, the prevailing assumption is that Barack Obama, as president will further extend the government’s resources to Black Americans to the detriment of our fiscal health.
The greatest misconception about Blacks in America is that 12.6 percent of the population is responsible for the financial burdens of the country.
In my short 78 years, I’ve witnessed the enforcement of Jim Crow laws that denied me access to any and all public facilities. This includes access to education, housing, jobs and recreation.
I felt the problem was partially solved when the school desegregation laws were passed in 1954.
However, on March 12, 1956, as the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education (1954) approached, Sen. Walter F. George rose to the speaker’s podium in the U.S. Senate to announce the creation of the latest weapon in the segregationist arsenal, the Southern Manifesto.
It was a bold, brazen document, signed by 99 of the South’s 128 congressional members. The Southern Manifesto, formally titled a Declaration of Constitutional Principles, denounced the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, calling it an “unwarranted exercise of power.” The Southern Manifesto’s signers pledged to “use all lawful means” to “bring about a reversal” of the Brown v. Board of Education decision.
This move was the precursor to the prevailing Republican Party’s resolve to defeat Barack Obama at all costs. The people of the United States paid and will continue to pay dearly for these race-based resolutions.
Now comes Mitt Romney, rich and ignorant as to the values of human dignity. In his narrow mind, he assumed that the entitlement programs were exactly as Newt Gingrich had described them. Handouts to lazy African Americans.
Here’s where Romney and Gingrich were wrong:
Few recipients fit the stereotype of a working-age, able-bodied adult happy to live on welfare checks. Indeed, only a third of entitlement spending goes to those in the bottom quintile of U.S. incomes. That’s because, by far, the biggest entitlement programs are Social Security and Medicare.
Facts on the $1.8 trillion spent in 2011 on mandatory federal entitlement programs:
- 53 percent went to Americans age 65 or older.
- 20 percent to non-elderly, permanently disabled Americans.
- 18 percent to families with at least one wage-earner who qualify for programs such as Medicaid, the school lunch program and/or the earned income and child care tax credits.
- 9 percent to all others, including Social Security recipients under age 65, recipients of Social Security survivor benefits, those receiving unemployment and those receiving Temporary Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
Mitt Romney was well aware of these facts but chose to play to racist stereotyping. There were no Black people in the room where he was speaking and he assumed everyone there knew who he was referring to and all participants were on the same page.
Mitt Romney’s comments were an extension of the blatant insults directed to people of color in suggesting they are satisfied to live in squalor with the assistance of government handouts.
I am personally insulted by his comments.
I have worked all my life and have made millions. I’ve paid my fair share of taxes, and have had to watch my communities and neighborhoods go without adequate public services, simply because the residents were Black. My father worked all his life and paid his fair share of taxes, and meanwhile I was denied access to any and all public facilities, had to drink from “colored” water fountains, could not eat in public nor private restaurants, could not sleep in a hotel or motel, and denied a host of civil rights normally accorded to an American citizen.
I had to watch my brothers and sisters bleed and die for the right to vote. I am not a ward of the federal government and I do receive social security. I do receive Medicare. I did go to school under the GI Bill, and I do drive on interstate highways.
These are entitlements I worked for, paid for, and was denied access to the entitlements my father worked and paid for on my behalf.
So Mitt Romney, and all other misguided politicians who think that tired old racist rhetoric from the past still resonates with the voting public, have lots of homework to do.
Those who still think it does, deserve a president like Mitt Romney and the negative consequences that comes with him.
Remember, a politician is one whose political activities are characterized by artful and often dishonest practices.
One last thought: If you live in a state that has voter ID laws, call your Board of Elections and find out the requirements for voting. Then, call every family member and inform them of the same.
Make sure all family members are registered and make sure they all vote on Nov. 6, 2012.
DISCLAIMER: The beliefs and viewpoints expressed in opinion pieces, letters to the editor, by columnists and/or contributing writers are not necessarily those of OurWeekly.
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