Monday, January 30, 2012

Gov. Christie played fast and loose with the facts about White voters in the South and civil rights

Ferguson, Missouri, 2014. Protesters protest the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, who was killed Darren Wilson, a local White cop. Protesters are threatened with police dogs, just like the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The more things change for African Americans, the more they stay the same.
Angry White citizens in Little Rock, Arkansas hold protest against integration and "race mixing." One protestor's sign stated that "Race Mixing is Communism."
Nonviolent students sitting at a lunch counter in Jackson, Mississippi, May 28, 1963. They were attacked by belligerent  White males who were bucking for a fight that they did not get. African American and White  protesters were taught not to react to violence against them. Rev. Martin Luther King insisted that protesters not be violent or incite violence.
President Lyndon B. Johnson, Democrat from Texas,  signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Noted leader of the civil rights movement, Rev. Martin King, Jr., was present at the signing.
The infamous Bull Connor getting ready to sic violent dogs on nonviolent civil rights marchers, which was a common on the journey to freedom and justice for African Americans in America in the 1950s and 1960s.
Civil rights activists were routinely tear gassed and beaten by law enforcement. Until the TV cameras captured the raw brutality and inhuman atrocities these protesters experienced, many of these horrific crimes against them were never seen by Americans. 





Chris Christie Said What?!---New Jersey’s governor Chris Christie was taught a different course on history that did not include the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. He was born in 1962. As an adult and the governor of the last state to free salves in 1866, Christie has no excuse for being absolutely illiterate about the civil rights movement. Had he taken the time he would have learned that New Jersey politicians were reluctant to abolish slavery, and they were reluctant to pass the 13th Amendment. Christie's lack of historical knowledge jumped out like Frankenstein after a facelift. Here is an asinine statement he made January 18.

"People would have been happy to have a referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South."

Christie was speaking to a State Senate Judiciary Committee. The remark was made in reference to the approval of a bill pushing New Jersey closer to legalizing same sex marriage. Christie's comparison of same sex marriage to the civil rights movement is way off base and completely disconnected.

I guess it would be fair to cut Christie some slack, but I am not in the mood to be fair. As  governor of a former slave state, his lack of history is inexcusable. I am quite aware that Black history was not taught in segregated schools. White students were not required to learn about the contributions Black people made to America.

Needless to say, the governor's assertion raised eyebrows among African Americans, especially those who knew about, and participated in the civil rights movement. He upset a couple of Black gays in politics.

"In Asbury Park, Mayor Ed Johnson, who is Black and gay, said: 'Can you imagine President Truman placing integration of the Armed Forces on the ballot? Or us voting on whether women should have equal pay for equal work?"

"And in Bergen County, Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, who is also Black, said in a statement: 'The governor apparently doesn't even understand that minorities likely would have been blocked from voting on a civil rights referendum in the South. Because they didn't have civil rights!"' (Channel 4 New York News)

Christie should have known if civil rights for African Americans was left up to White people and individual states, African Americans would not be allowed to vote today. Left to a referendum, African Americans would be the designated "immigrants", earning less than minimum, working at low skill jobs, and still living under Jim Crow laws in a segregated America.

Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation---Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president, technically emancipated enslaved Africans via an executive order during the Civil War,  January 1, 1863.  The Emancipation Proclamation  only abolished slavery in 10 Confederate states.  In addition to freeing slaves, the 13th Amendment squashed all forms of involuntary servitude.

"When the American Civil War (1861-65) began, President Abraham Lincoln carefully framed the conflict as concerning the preservation of the Union rather than the abolition of slavery. Although he personally found the practice of slavery abhorrent, he knew that neither Northerners nor the residents of the border slave states would support abolition as a war aim. But by mid-1862, as thousands of slaves fled to join the invading Northern armies, Lincoln was convinced that abolition had become a sound military strategy, as well as the morally correct path.

"On September 22, soon after the Union victory at Antietam, he issued a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states "shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." While the Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave, it was an important turning point in the war, transforming the fight to preserve the nation into a battle for human freedom. 

"Lincoln and the Republican party recognized that the Emancipation Proclamation, as a war measure, might have no constitutional validity once the war was over. The legal framework of slavery would still exist in the former Confederate states as well as in the Union slave states that had been exempted from the proclamation. So the party committed itself to a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery. The overwhelmingly Republican Senate passed the Thirteenth Amendment by more than the necessary two-thirds majority on April 8, 1864. But not until January 31, 1865, did enough Democrats in the House abstain or vote for the amendment to pass it by a bare two-thirds. By December 18, 1865, the requisite three-quarters of the states had ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, which ensured that forever after “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude ... shall exist within the United States.” (History.com)

13th Amendment, Section 1: ‘Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted; shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.’

Despite all noble  intentions the 13th Amendment was not a good friend to ex-slaves. They were left homeless, penniless and abandoned. They had nowhere to go. They had no prospect for a better life. They had no rights the dominant population had to recognize.

From what I read in some  historical accounts, thousands of freed slaves stayed on with their "former" owners. Being homeless, having no money, no prospects for paid employment, the ex-slaves were subjected to vagrancy laws that landed them in jail, and back to working free. Nonetheless, without an income they were expected to pay the fines imposed on them. They were caught between a rock and hard place, and the hard place was winning. They could not escape the burdens of their previous condition. The Emancipation Proclamation did not deal the freed slave a fair hand in a society that hated the color of their skin.

When the 14th Amendment was proposed in 1866 it went a step farther. Ratified in 1868, it bestowed on ex-slaves all the Constitutional rights that White people were privileged to. Andrew Johnson was president, and this is how the Amendment came into fruition:
   
“The Radicals' first step was to refuse to seat any Senator or Representative from the old Confederacy. Next they passed measures dealing with the former slaves. Johnson vetoed the legislation. The Radicals mustered enough votes in Congress to pass legislation over his veto--the first time that Congress had overridden a President on an important bill. They passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which established Negroes as American citizens and forbade discrimination against them.” (Our U.S. Presidents)

These Amendments did not stop states from enacting newly created Jim Crow and Black Code laws, poll taxes, grandfather clauses, intimidation, White only primaries, and literacy tests that asked stupid questions as prerequisites to vote. Not even the smartest White citizen or politician could answer the questions. This drop kick scheme was solely devised to “regulate” former slaves, stopping them from demanding their rights.

The 15th Amendment grants voting rights to U. S. citizens regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Noticeably, the right to vote is not in the Constitution. This right is a man created privilege that only White men were allowed to exercise.  The amendment was proposed in 1869 and ratified in 1870 under President Ulysses S. Grant. The completed package was supposed to favor former slaves but they did not have the power to take advantage of their rights. They were free on paper but Whites still had control over them.

Freedom without true freedom---Because ex-slaves were powerless and helpless against Whites  who were determined to keep “them in their place”, they would have to fight for real freedom, not the empty freedom granted them by Abraham Lincoln. Over the years Blacks were intimidated and killed by terrorist gangs such as the KKK and similar vigilantes. Lynchings of men and women,  mutilations, Black men burned alive, rape of Black girls and women were as common as hanging trees and grass. Body parts were sold for souvenirs after or before a lynching or human burning. No Whites were ever prosecuted for these inhuman crimes against Black Americans. No law, judge or jury was on their side.

Fast forward to peaceful sit-ins, marches, demonstrations and protests spearheaded by civil rights leaders and followers in 1950s. Rosa Parks, though not the only figure in the quest for civil rights and freedom, is the most recognized for her refusal to relinquish her seat to a White man on a Montgomery city bus.

The bus driver demanded that she go to the back of the bus. She was sitting closer to the front than the back, somewhere in the middle, which was a no-no in those days. The irony is, if there were no available seats in the front of the bus, the bus driver could demand that a “Negro” give up his or her seat in the back of the bus for a White passenger. Parks steadfastness caused her to get arrested, thus sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1964.

From 1955 to 1968---Civil rights leaders and activists refused to retreat. They continued the marches, mainly in the deep South, where White folk treated civil rights like personal Christmas gifts that Blacks were trying to steal them. Among the noted civil rights leaders was Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. He  became the face and voice of a nonviolent movement. Despite the nonviolence hundreds of leaders and activists were killed, threatened, bitten by police dogs, water hosed, spat on, stoned, cursed at, and beaten by White law enforcement. White people said their "rights" were getting taken away from them to favor Black people.

Now doesn't that sound familiar?

“Many African-Americans risked their lives to march and protest for their voting rights. On March 7, 1965, 525 marchers intended to walk from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, the state capital. They didn't get far before police confronted them on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. When the protesters refused to turn back, police fired tear gas and attacked the crowd with clubs and whips.” (E-How)

In the end African Americans won a hard-fought change. Whereas they were still discriminated against and basically disenfranchised as legal citizens, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, a Texas Democrat, lessened some their apprehension when he signed into law the  Civil Rights Act of 1964 at the White House, July 2. Suffice it say Southern Democrats fought the hardest against passage of the Civil Right Act. They liked things just the way they were. Blacks were not equal to Whites and they never would be in the eyes of these Democrats and their constituents.

“The bill came before the full Senate for debate on March 30, 1964. The Southern Bloc of 18 southern Democratic Senators and one Republican Senator led by Richard Russell (D-GA) launched a filibuster to prevent its passage. Said Russell: 'We will resist to the bitter end any measure or any movement which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our (Southern) states.'"  (Wikipedia)

This is a mere synopsis African of Americans dying and suffering for their right to vote and live the American Dream, not a mythical promise of the dream. The horrors they suffered were exposed in graphic photos and videos on the evening news. This is what Christie did not take time to research. I guess he is not cognizant of the fact that Republican governors (like himself) and politicians in more than 30 states are reverting to old southern-style tricks and strategies to deprive African Americans of their right to vote. This time it's his party not the Democrats, not all of whom I trust not revert to the "good old days."

This scheme was a preplanned goal to implement if Republicans won big during the midterm elections of 2010.  Well, they won big with the help of raging tea partiers and big money donors. And here we are with a blowhard like Christie foolishly espousing in 2012: "People would have been happy to have referendum on civil rights rather than fighting and dying in the streets in the South."

Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker said, "Frankly, I wouldn't be where I am today if states had voted on civil rights."

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