POLITICS AND RACISM-There is no greater idiocy and insult than to compare Kentucky Deputy Clerk Kim Davis’s defiance of the law to the stand of civil rights icon Rosa Parks. But some GOP notables and conservatives fell over themselves to say that. They think that because one obscure clerk invoked God and religion to justify not issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples that this puts her in the same league with Parks.
There’s really no need to waste a lot of time trying to tick off the ways that Davis can hardly be compared to Parks.
Suffice it to say that Parks was a deeply committed civil rights activist and NAACP member before she was jailed for defying a segregation statute. She did not have the benefit of any party’s presidential candidates vying for photo-ops with her. After her release she still was subject to the same Jim Crow segregation laws and the threat of physical abuse.
Parks’ act struck a blow against bigotry, intolerance, and the century-long denial of rights for African-Americans. Davis’ act did the exact opposite. It struck a blow for bigotry, intolerance, and the near millennial denial of rights to gays.
The ridiculous comparison of Davis to Parks really shouldn’t surprise anyone. The GOP and ultra-conservatives have long tried to have their cake and eat it too when it comes to making false, phony, and self-serving comparisons to -- and even a feigned embrace of -- the civil rights movement’s legacy and heroes. It has regularly tossed out Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s name to hammer affirmative action programs by latching onto and distorting King’s "I Have a Dream" speech -- purporting that he would be opposed to these programs.
Some even tried to drag him into the controversy over the Black Lives Matter movement saying that he’d be appalled at its actions.
But it’s the Parks' name that has always seemed to draw the GOP’s fascination and blatant opportunism. This was on horrid display in December, 2013. The occasion was the 58th Anniversary Commemoration of the day that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama bus and was jailed. The Republican National Committee moved quickly and tweeted a salute to Parks. "Today we remember Rosa Parks' bold stand and her role in ending racism."
The tweet provoked a justifiable storm of outrage aimed squarely at the gigantic absurdity that Parks' brave act by itself was enough to end racism. The RNC quickly retweeted and inserted the word “fighting” in place of “ending” before the word racism.
As idiotic as the original RNC tweet was, the outrage over that should have been minor over a far bigger RNC problem: namely its self-serving delusion that the GOP has shed its chronic racial pandering. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus feeds that delusion when he loudly proclaims that the GOP is doing a “deep soul search” on race and that he wants the GOP to do everything to woo more blacks, Latinos, and Asians to the party. Priebus said that the GOP could show that it “cares” about them, too.
The problem is that Priebus or someone else forgot to tell this to his party. The borderline racial taunts, the digs and jabs at President Obama -- all under the guise of opposing every Obama initiative -- has continued unabated. The always predictable racial outbursts from Tea Party followers, some GOP officials, rightwing bloggers and talk radio jocks have been unending.
GOP top officials will issue a wrist slap, pro forma denunciation or more likely, say nothing. Again, this reaffirms what the overwhelming majority of blacks and Latinos already know and that is that the GOP is the inherent enemy of their interests. That includes its relentless assault on health care reform, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, as well as its loud clamor to slash and burn, if not outright eliminate, dozens of programs that directly benefit the poor and working class.
The clincher was the initial Parks' tweet. The very fact that the RNC could credit Parks’ heroic act in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 as "ending" racism spoke volumes about the GOP’s mindset -- a mindset that thinks racism ended a decade before passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Acts, and countless other civil rights laws and statutes enacted in the years since. No, these milestones did not eradicate racism but rather officially ended legal segregation and political inequality.
All of this still leaves the problem of conservatives’ continuing to invoke Parks, King and the Civil Rights movement to cover bigotry or worse -- as in the case of Davis -- and to make an invidious comparison of the defenders of bigotry to those who steadfastly fought against it.
The Civil Rights movement is the stuff of universal respect and nostalgia. Its heroes are legendary and thus the temptation is irresistible to invoke their names. Invoking Davis's name in the same breath with Parks is the ultimate insult.
(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is President of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)
Vol 13 Issue 74
Pub: Sep 11, 2015