When Dr. King was assassinated, he was standing up for the rights of striking sanitation workers in Memphis to earn a living wage, not for the right of a stupid-rich multi-billionaire to maintain his tax shelter, cut his workers’ pay, or skirt workplace safety and environmental regulations.
Moreover, the movement was fought in the courtroom, with civil rights lawyers such as Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton Houston breaking down Jim Crow in the legal system, as Dr. King and others beat down segregation in the streets and at the lunch counters.
In contrast, the Tea Party-infused Republican Party — and certainly Rick Perry, the Koch Brothers’ $1.2 million poster boy — believe that freedom means less government in the form of draconian budget cuts and privatization of the public schools, union-busting, the repeal of so-called “Obamacare,” and the shredding of the social safety net.
In other words, the policies coming out of Congress and Tea Party-controlled state houses that are designed to break the backs of poor, working- and middle-class families — and are doing so with great success — in order to divert even more money to the lucky few at the top of America’s food chain, including Perry’s benefactors, the Koch Brothers.
Perry’s attempt to rewrite history is part of a pattern among GOP presidential candidates. When Michele Bachmann declared that the Founding Fathers (a great number of them slave owners) “worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States”, she was appealing to the base — those reality-challenged voters who are unencumbered by facts and prefer a whitewashed interpretation of America’s troubling racial past.
Yet, when Perry characterized Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as treasonous, a capital offense, and suggested Texans would lynch Bernanke, Perry made light of the Lone Star State’s violent racial past, if he did not glorify it.
“If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno what y’all would do to him in Iowa but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas,” the governor said.
It is no accident that Texas was once a leader in lynchings, as were other states of the former Confederacy, accustomed as they were to dehumanizing others through slavery. And now under Perry, Texas remains the national leader in the use of the death penalty, disgraceful and racially discriminatory as it is. Texas executes more prisoners than any other state — and in Perry’s case, this includes putting the apparently innocent to death as well.
It is not surprising that Perry — whose Texas board of education erased black and Latino civil rights leaders and their accomplishments from the history books — would try to turn the narrative of the civil rights movement into a fight over tax breaks. But it is outrageous, nonetheless.
David A. Love
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