Republicans and Race

REPUBLICANS AND RACE….Bob Herbert looks at the recent antics of the Republican Party and decides it’s time for a history lesson:

The G.O.P. has spent the last 40 years insulting, disenfranchising and otherwise stomping on the interests of black Americans….This is the party of the Southern strategy — the party that ran, like panting dogs, after the votes of segregationist whites who were repelled by the very idea of giving equal treatment to blacks.

….In 1981, during the first year of Mr. Reagan’s presidency, the late Lee Atwater gave an interview to a political science professor at Case Western Reserve University, explaining the evolution of the Southern strategy:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,’ ” said Atwater. “By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

Lovely man, Lee Atwater.

In related news, today is the 50th anniversary of school integration in Little Rock, Arkansas, an event memorialized for all time in the photo on the right, taken by Arkansas Democrat photographer Will Counts. Vanity Fair has a terrific piece up on their website framed around that photograph and the two high school students it captured: Elizabeth Eckford, one of the original Little Rock Nine, and Hazel Bryan, the white student screaming at her in the background. It’s worth a read.