A lesson on how to address the issue of slavery and black poverty
Somewhat overshadowed by the Independence Day holiday weekend, Rick Perry’s unorthodox jobs and economic growth speech ruffled all the right feathers.
Candidate job plans tend to blur together because regardless of party affiliation, they’re virtually indistinguishable. Reduce/raise taxes, decrease/increase regulation, “get America working again!”, “yada yada yada middle class!” Then there’s always “something strangling something.” Whether it’s speech writer laziness or well tested imagery I don’t know, but there’s always something being strangled. “Bring jobs back to America!” [insert story of someone candidate met while campaigning and how current administration/elected official’s policies have made it hard for anecdotal individual to find work] and so on. And that’s pretty much every single economic policy speech in modern history. Or at least it was until last Thursday.
Perry’s economic opportunity speech at the National Press Club last week was unlike any other speech of its kind and brilliantly so.
“It was 99 years ago on the 15th of May of 1916 at a courthouse in Waco, Texas there was a mentally disable 17 year old boy. His name was Jesse Washington. He was convicted of raping and murdering the wife of his employer. He plead guilty and he was sentenced to death. But Jesse died no ordinary death because he was black.”
That’s how Perry began his jobs speech.
“After the death sentence was issued, Jess was dragged out of the McLennan County Courthouse into a crowd of hundreds. And thanks to the advent of this new technology called the telephone, word spread to what was about to happen. And soon there were 15,000 people watching Jesse Washington be tortured, to be mutilated, to be tied to a tree. Someone lit a fire under Jesse and raised him into the air. Jesse tried to climb up the chains, to keep from being consumed by that fire. Someone started cutting his fingers off so that he could not climb that chain. One man castrated him. Another used a pole to prevent him from pulling himself away from the fire.”
“There was a prominent local photographer who took pictures of Jesse’s charred remains and sold them as souvenirs on a post card. Even today, we Texans struggle to talk about what happened to Jesse Washington. We don’t want to believe that our great state could ever have been the scene of such unimaginable horror. But it is an episode in our history that we cannot ignore. It is an episode that we have an obligation to transcend. Now we made a lot of progress since 1916.”
Before we move on to the progress that has been made over the years, we must pause to reflect on the significance of the gruesome story Governor Perry told.
Far too often there is a collective failure to recognize the horror whence our nation emerged and the atrocities we willingly afflicted on those whose only misfortune was a heaping dose of melanin.
The story of Jesse Washington is evidence enough for why the most offensive parts of our historic fabric must be preserved, remembered, and recounted. We cannot change our history, though there are those who wish to rewrite or adjust it. But it is that seemingly simple act of acknowledging where we began that means the world to many who’s parents and grandparents served as the primary sources for our historical record.
If we wish to endear more to our cause, we must first relate. In order to relate, we must acknowledge. And that’s precisely what Governor Perry did.
“When it comes to race, America is a better and more tolerant and more welcoming place than it’s ever been before. We’re a country with Hispanic CEOs, with Asian billionaires, with a black President. So why is it, today, so many black families feel left behind? Why is it that a quarter of African-Americans live below the poverty line, even after the impact of federal programs like food stamps and housing subsidies? The supplemental poverty rate for African-Americans is nearly double the rate for other Americans,” Perry continued.
And then he dropped the hammer. This is lengthy, but well worth the few minutes to read. Promise. Oh yes, and emphasis is mine (but read it all anyway).
“Democrats have long had the opportunity to govern the African-American communities. It is time for black families to hold them accountable for the results. And I’m here to tell you that it’s Republicans, not Democrats, who are truly offering black Americans the hope for a better life for themselves and their children. I’m proud to live in a country that has an African-American President. But President Obama cannot be proud of the fact that the prevalence of black poverty has actually increased under his leadership.”
“We cannot dismiss the historical legacy of slavery, nor its role in causing the problem of black poverty. And because slavery and segregation were sanctioned by government, there is a role for government policy in addressing their lasting effects. But the specific policies, advanced by the President and his allies on the left, amount to little more than throwing money at the problem and walking away.”
“…There has been, and there will continue to be an important and a legitimate role for the federal government in enforcing Civil Rights. Too often, we Republicans, me included, have emphasized our message on the 10th Amendment but not our message on the 14th. An Amendment, it bears reminding, that was one of the great contributions of Republican party to American life, second only to the abolition of slavery.”
“For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote, because we found we didn’t need it to win. But, when we gave up trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln, as the party of equal opportunity for all. It’s time for us, once again, to reclaim our heritage as the only party in our country founded on the principle of freedom for African-Americans.”
“We know what Democrats will propose in 2016, the same thing, the same things that Democrats have proposed for decades, more government spending on more government programs. And there is a proper and an important role for government assistance in keeping people on their feet. But few Presidents have done more to expand government assistance than President Obama. Today we spend nearly one trillion dollars a year on means tested antipoverty programs. And yet, black poverty remains stagnant.”
“Here is what I have seen in my time in public office. The best welfare program in America is a job. There is a fundamental reason why Democratic policies have failed to cure poverty, is because the only true cure for poverty is a job. And Democratic policies have made it too hard for the poor to find a job.”
This, THIS, ^, +1, and yassssssss.
Let’s hope we hear more of this from Governor Perry and other GOP presidential hopefuls. It’s a message that needs amplification.
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