Sorry, We Had to Cancel the Dream

That throbbing, angry vein on America's forehead. Sure, the arc of the moral universe is long, but was it supposed to go backward?

Sorry, We Had to Cancel the Dream
Where'd everybody go?

It is a real struggle to not write about the former President today, or as I prefer to refer to him, TFG. And to me those letters have a couple of meanings. Either "The Former Guy" or "That F*****g Guy." Take your pick. Either way, the press, left, right and center are having a field day with the latest FUBAR from the President who makes the descendants of Andrew Johnson feel better about great, great, great grandad. So I'd like to concentrate on something else in the news this week.

Murdered black folks. Yeah, this isn't going to be a funny one.

Too blunt? Perhaps, but it seems to me we need to be a bit more blunt (or is it blunter?) these days, since no one else seems to want to talk about this nation's legacy of, shall we delicately call it, discomfort with the subject of race relations, particularly since that late unpleasantness of 1861. What happened this week in Jacksonville, Florida has become all too familiar, and pretty much generates a sigh of resignation, at most.

The Cost of Thoughts and Prayers — First Presbyterian Church of La Grange
The least we can do. No, seriously, the least.

Oh, there has been the traditional condemnation from Governor DeSantis of the "scumbag" who took the coward's way out. And, that's it. Meanwhile, he, and the legislature, have clamped down on the teaching of black history in Florida and ordered offices of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion eliminated. Now, as I have mentioned before, those three qualities seem like noble goals in any organization. But being diverse, treating folks equally and including everyone seem to be problematic for the Florida gang. But let's be honest. They are for several states, including the one with a lone star in it's flag.

So I wondered what the issue was, particularly with the College Board's Advance Placement Course in African-American Studies? I mean, a graduate of Little Rock's Central High School, now the Governor of Arkansas, decided it would not be suitable for class credit. Especially when 25 years before she was born, this happened...

Little Rock Nine - Definition, Names & Facts | HISTORY
"Welcome to Central High."

And this...

On This Day in History: The Little Rock Nine Start School • Burt Glinn •  Magnum Photos

And this...

Happy first day of school!

But hey, that was then and this is now, and it seems, we don't want to remember then. The concern, as expressed by DeSantis, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and let's face it, Abbott and Patrick, is that we don't want to generate animosity between the races or "indoctrinate" kids with a political point of view.

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Now, if you read about slavery, the Trail of Tears, the Fort Pillow massacre in the Civil War, Wounded Knee, the Little Big Horn, Sand Creek, the Alamo, Jim Crow, Suffrage, the Holocaust, Mi Lai, Kent State, MLK, JFK, RFK and so forth, someone is going to feel strongly about something or someone. And you might even think about the politics of the time. It's human nature. It's also history and history, like science, doesn't give a damn about your feelings.

So, I looked up the AP African-American studies course. Here's a link, courtesy of CNN. I think you'll find it pretty much covers the waterfront. And I guess what I'm wondering is, what are they so afraid of? Are they worried that we'll see that girl hollering at Elizabeth Eckford, 15, the black teenager in the famous photo of the "Little Rock Nine?" The other 15-year-old doing the hollering, by the way, is Hazel Bryan, who came to be rightfully embarrassed by her notoriety.

From the History Channel episode on Central High...

The day after the incident, the photograph, taken by photojournalist Will Counts, ran on the front page of the Arkansas Democrat. It, and a similar wire photo taken by another photographer, quickly spread throughout the country. When Bryan received disapproving mail, her parents pulled her from the school.
Meanwhile, Eckford endured constant harassment and hatred inside the school she had helped integrate. She was spat upon, punched, hit with eggs and vegetables and faced with a barrage of slurs and insults all year long. Though Eckford managed to finish the school year, the bigots of Little Rock could not abide another year with integrated schools. Rather than repeat integration the next year, they shut down schools altogether.
But though Little Rock’s schools reopened—and finally integrated—the year after, the story didn’t end there. When Eckford, who moved to St. Louis soon after, visited Little Rock at age 21, she received a call from Bryan, who apologized. Then they went their separate ways again.

So, what is it, again, that Sarah, Ron, Dan, and Greg are afraid of? Will it make some kids mad? Will it make some ashamed? And this is just Little Rock.

My grandmother taught across town at Lee High School, one of the many schools through the South that was named for the Confederate General. Most have been renamed with a couple of notable exceptions like the one in Baytown, Texas. My grandmother was a religious woman, a Presbyterian deacon, the first female one in the state, and pretty progressive for the time. She told me how hard it was to convince her colleagues, some of them half her age, that this was not only inevitable, but right.

Yep, it's old Strom.

And the concerns about history can go both ways. It is very fashionable in certain talk radio circles to point out that slavery in the South, and Jim Crow, were part and parcel of the Democratic Party of the time. Remember the "Dixiecrats?" And they are absolutely right. Of course, like so many political arguments right up to Joe Biden and Ukraine, it is only part of the story. However, Democrats will have to take the fall for their own history, including the Klan, segregation, George Wallace, Lester Maddox and even Andrew Jackson's shameful treatment of Native Americans.

But when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, with lots of Republican votes in Congress because those same southern Democrats were stading in the way, he is said to have told his top aid, Bill Moyers, "I've lost the South for a generation." At that point, the future of civil rights and equal treatment was insured by the party of Lincoln. But LBJ's prediction of a lost generation of southern votes was prescient.

Bill Moyers Journal . Watch & Listen | PBS

That's because it's been longer than that. Republicans caught on. A GOP strategist and writer named Kevin Phillips is credited with being the father of the so-called "Southern Strategy." Here is how it's described in his Wikipedia bio...

Phillips worked for Richard Nixon's presidential campaign in 1968, and afterwards wrote a book on what has come to be known as the "Southern strategy" of the Republican Party. The book was entitled The Emerging Republican Majority and argued that the southern states of the US would keep the Republicans winning Presidential Elections and more than offset the Northeast states, based on racial politics.


"All the talk about Republicans making inroads into the Negro vote is persiflage. Even 'Jake the Snake' [Senator Jacob Javits of New York] only gets 20 percent. From now on, Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote, and they don't need any more than that... but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That's where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats."

Now Phillips came to regret that part of his life and is now a political independent and the author of many terrific political volumes, including two I have had the good fortune to interview him about.

From my sagging bookshelf

But, that's when the parties began switching sides on the issue of race. No, not completely, and there are still holdouts on both ends of the political spectrum. But what Sanders, DeSantis, Abbott, and Patrick are doing is calculated and not at all subtle. It isn't even a dog-whistle, it's a tugboat horn. And it is shameful.

Add in the whole MAGA cult, and we have folks that are in some cases, easily incitable. and folks who are happy to help, for example, Sarah Palin...

FILE - Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, left, appears with then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally at the Iowa State University on Jan. 19, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has picked up a prized endorsement in her bid in an extremely crowded field to fill the unexpired term of the late U.S. Rep. Don Young. Former President Donald Trump backed Palin on Sunday, April 3, 2022, in a statement from his political action committee. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
I mean, I think those who are conducting this travesty and creating this two-tier system of justice, I want to ask them: What the heck? Do you want us to be in civil war? Because that’s what’s going to happen. We’re not going to keep putting up with this, and we need to get angry. We do need to rise up and take our country back.”

And then there's...

'No one sympathizes with you': Marjorie Taylor Greene criticized for bad shooting comparison
"Hi, again."

And part of this is racial, make no mistake. When the Fox News Presidential Debate began with a question about an obscure country song with a lyric that goes...

Lord, we got folks in the street, ain't got nothin' to eat
And the obese milkin' welfare.
Well, God, if you're 5-foot-3 and you're 300 pounds
Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds.

Now, I'm not psychic, but I think I know to whom he is referring. And when we have a huge deficit, inflation still on people's minds, a war in Ukraine and a former President going on trial, this was the first question in a Republican Presidential Debate, for crying out loud?! Granted the singer in question is apparently not thrilled with the use of his song, and he may well be the centrist he claims to be. But that particular line is frankly, obvious. The clichéd image of a "welfare queen" was burned into our brains back in the 80's.

But today we've gone beyond a nod and a wink and the good Republicans I know have to be firm in separating themselves from this nastiness and regression back to the bad old days. We are dancing around the obvious, and I can't be part of the dance any longer.

And please understand, I'm not blaming the actions of a little, homicidal NAZI in Florida on the GOP, or even TFG. But am I the only one who sees that these sentiments are more easily expressed, more common and the filters are simply gone? Well, of course not. It's everywhere and it's like Little Rock in 1957 again. Mark Twain said that history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme. If you doubt it, just ask a Jewish friend.

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.
Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.