Below is an article that was sent to me. I found the author's perspective to be intriguing. Even though I might not be totally in line with everything that he is saying, I thought he made some valid points. I would be interested to hear what anyone else thinks about what he has to say.
Commentary: No Handouts: Open Up the Door and we’ll get it Ourselves
Date: Sunday, June 20, 2004
By: Gregory Kane, BlackAmericaWeb.com
The late President Ronald Reagan, buried nearly a week now, received few
praises from blacks during America’s seven-day mourning period after the
40th president died June 5.
What we did hear from many black commentators was a constant theme: Reagan,
as president, didn’t do anything “for” black folks.
You have to wonder where these commentators are learning their black
Before continuing, I feel compelled to point out that Reagan most certainly
did do something “for” black people. It’s the same thing he did for
Americans of every race: his best to convince us that the federal
government, with its powers strictly limited by the Constitution, is not
our mommy and daddy and was never meant to grow to the behemoth proportions
it has since the New Deal started.
Legislators in cities and towns that have passed resolutions against the
Patriot Act seem to concede Reagan’s point.
But the history says no president has done anything “for” black people
that black people didn’t cajole, agitate, exhort or implore him to do.
You remember the fairy tale you heard back in grade school: President
Lincoln freed the slaves. You’ve since learned Lincoln’s Emancipation
Proclamation freed no one, that he didn’t accept blacks into the Union army
until Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists urged him to do it, and
that many slaves, by abandoning the plantations and providing invaluable
labor for Northern forces, more or less freed themselves.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn’t issue Executive Order 8802
[anti-job discrimination] because he woke up in the White House one morning
with the itch to do something “for” black folks. He did it because A..
Philip Randolph threatened to raise hell and take thousands of black folks
in a march on Washington that would expose America to its fascist foes as
preaching equality and freedom while practicing a vicious racism of its
Randolph was around again after World War II ended, at a dinner with
Roosevelt’s successor, President Harry S. Truman. Randolph let Truman know
blacks would not serve again in a segregated army. Truman was miffed at
Randolph, but he got the message. Truman desegregated all branches of the
armed forces in 1948.
The president perceived to have done the most “for” blacks — John F.
Kennedy — actually did very little. He proposed a civil rights bill but
couldn’t get it passed, and he, along with his brother, Attorney General
Robert F. Kennedy, actually resegregated some Army units sent to quell a
1962 riot that broke out at the University of Mississippi when James
Meredith enrolled. The Kennedys hoped to appease Southern racists and
rioters, while putting the lives of Meredith and black and white soldiers
The president who actually did the most “for” black people was President
Lyndon B. Johnson. He got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting
Rights Act of 1965 through Congress, but he had lots of help. Given little
credit is a man named Clarence Mitchell Jr. who, as head of the Washington,
D.C. branch of the NAACP, lobbied to get that legislation passed.
Mitchell became known as “the 101st senator” for his efforts.
This notion that blacks need a president to do something “for” us flies in
the face of our history. We have always done plenty for ourselves. We even
did it during slavery, the “white-man-as-devil, black-folks-as-victims”
school of history currently in vogue among us notwithstanding.
Historian Ira Berlin, in his “Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries
of Slavery in North America” tells much of this story. Berlin’s book is not
very popular. It doesn’t have the attraction for many of us that, say, the
Willie Lynch fantasy does. But Berlin makes clear that black folks did
plenty for themselves during slavery.
Our ancestors “established cook shops, groceries, and taverns to cater to
their own people,” according to Berlin. They also “educated themselves and
their children, insured themselves against disaster, protected themselves
against kidnappers, planned for their future and…set the standards for
These were the black folks who didn’t fret about what a president could do
“for” them. Many did for themselves, including hiring out their free time
to make wages to purchase their freedom and that of their loved ones.
If Ronald Reagan didn’t do anything “for” black folks, perhaps it’s because
he was more in tune to our history than we are.