Politics & Policy

Missing Parks

Playing the race card doesn't do justice to a pioneer's legacy.

When the late Rosa Parks was laid to rest Wednesday at Detroit’s Woodlawn Cemetery, Americans also paid their last respects to the brand of civil-rights activism that she embodied. By refusing to yield her seat to a white man in the front of a segregated Montgomery, Alabama bus on December 1, 1955, Parks (who died October 24 at age 92) both launched and epitomized a dignified, determined fight against hardened bigotry. It spread from the ultimately successful, 381-day Montgomery bus boycott, to sit-ins at Whites-Only lunch counters, to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, to President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s signature on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In just eight and a half years, Parks, King, Medgar Evers, Bayard Rustin, and other civil-rights pioneers killed and buried Jim Crow by being serious, self-respecting citizens who challenged their countrymen to supersede real, palpable racism and achieve true equality for all Americans. Their victory was one of this nation’s finest hours.

Compare the grace and magnanimity of their struggle with the behavior of today’s civil-rights activists and their liberal, Democratic allies. As black Americans run the State Department, Time-Warner, Merrill-Lynch, and even Interpol, today’s charlatans promiscuously play the race card, not as the rarely deployed, ultimate defense against ethnic bias, but as the first response to any inconvenience that anyone of color might perceive. Rather than appeal for unity and calm to overcome bigotry, today’s racial arsonists spray lighter fluid on the nation’s still-cooling embers of ethnic animus. Instead of conserving their energies to fight genuine hatred when it makes an increasingly rare appearance, today’s race-obsessed liberals see prejudice as often as the white rays of the morning sun scatter the black shadows of the night.

Indeed, Jim Crow might have survived for years were Parks, King, and their contemporaries as buffoonish as today’s race-propelled Left:

‐When a bipartisan commission led by former Democratic president Jimmy Carter and former GOP secretary of state James Baker urged election officials to require photo ID cards to fight vote fraud, Democrats acted as if former segregationist George Wallace had decreed this policy from his grave.

“This decision takes us back to the dark past of literacy tests and other insidious devices that were carefully devised to hamper the participation of all of our citizens in the political process,” said U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D., Ga.), a 1960s civil-rights hero.

The GOP desire for voter photo ID is “a new Southern strategy and a new Jim Crow,” said Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean.


Asking citizens to show photo ID before voting is as Jim Crow as requiring blacks (and everyone else) to produce picture identification before boarding airplanes, cashing checks, or entering many government buildings. Deep down, Lewis and Dean know this. Such outbursts make Americans laugh at such idiocy now and, unfortunately, laugh again when such crying wolf inures people to legitimate claims of racism.

‐Similarly, when Rep. Vito Fossella (D., N.Y.) warned that the election of Democrat Fernando Ferrer as Gotham mayor next Tuesday would resurrect “the antagonistic years under David Dinkins,” black Rep. Gregory Meeks (D., N.Y.) threw down the race card. He chided Fossella for using “coded, fear-mongering language…when you talk about David Dinkins.” Democrat Dinkins, after all, did preside over skyrocketing homicides, spiraling homelessness, economic dislocation, and even an anti-Semitic pogrom in Crown Heights. To call the pre-Giuliani Dinkins years “antagonistic” is not racist. It’s downright polite.

‐”Downright impolite” accurately describes the Left’s bigotry toward black conservatives. Rather than engage in serious debate, for instance, The News Blog’s Steve Gilliard posted a Washington Post photo doctored to make Michael Steele, Maryland’s democratically elected Republican lieutenant governor, look like Black Sambo, one of the ugliest racist stereotypes — complete with extra-darkened skin, huge red lips, and illiterate lingo (“I’s Simple Sambo and I’s running for the Big House” [U.S. Senate]). (Yielding to complaints, that photo was replaced with a non-bigoted image, although columnist Michelle Malkin archived a copy for posterity.) Steele’s Democratic opponents have called him “Uncle Tom” and hurled Oreo cookies at him (black on the outside, white on the inside). The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee even secured a copy of his personal credit record–a massive and illegal invasion of privacy.

Cartoonists have depicted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as a bird with fat lips and as a barefoot mom in a rocking chair on a rural porch. Radical calypso singer Harry Belafonte compared Rice and her predecessor, Colin Powell, to house slaves. One magazine a few years ago portrayed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas shining fellow Justice Antonin Scalia’s shoes. The same magazine published an illustration of Thomas as a lawn jockey.

With such stereotypes and images largely retired from polite company, it is nauseating that they now survive among the American Left. Out of answers and devoid of ideas, the best they can do is excavate the Ku Klux Klan’s iconography to attack honorable, black American public servants who do not drink the liberal Kool-Aid. If the American Left’s reservoir of decency were not running on fumes, they would denounce such racist rhetoric and instead, discuss the issues. Don’t hold your breath.

‐For his part, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan staged the October 15 “Millions More Movement” in Washington. Crowds were a fraction of those that attended the October 1995 Million Man March on the National Mall. (The Congress of Racial Equality’s Niger Innis dubbed last month’s event the “Millions-Less March.”) Even worse, Farrakhan then called for a separate-but-equal black cabinet, including black departments of Defense, Education, and Health and Human Services. As fellow Project 21 adviser B. B. Robinson explained, these mirror-image agencies would be funded by asking blacks to fast one day every week and forward $1 each from the resulting savings in erstwhile nutrition. Even if every one of America’s 34,772,381 Census-estimated black citizens participated in this $52-per-capita voluntary tax, it would yield just $1,808,163,812 annually. Try building a parallel federal bureaucracy on that.

Farrakhan blasted to bits the faded remnants of his own credibility when he said this shortly after Hurricane Katrina dissolved much of the fair city of New Orleans: “I heard from a very reliable source who saw a 25-foot-deep crater under the levee breach,” Farrakhan explained September 12 in Charlotte, North Carolina. “It may have been blown up to destroy the black part of town and keep the white part dry.”

Presumably when New Orleans re-flooded during Hurricane Rita, Whitey was working in his mysterious way to re-soak the Crescent City’s black neighborhoods–this time, just for laughs.

‐Speaking of hurricanes, black congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D., Tex.) said, “All racial groups should be represented,” among the World Meteorological Organization’s names for tropical cyclones. Lee worried that 2003’s hurricane designations, including Larry, Sam, and Wanda, did not include more “black-sounding” monikers, such as LaToya and Shemika. Rep. Lee hoped the weather community “would try to be inclusive of African-American names.”

Would any American feel better if Hurricane Katrina had swirled through the south as Hurricane Keisha?

‐Among Rosa Parks’s 37 eulogies was one delivered by none other than the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Mainstream Media’s de facto president of Black America. He proposed a White House Conference on Civil Rights, then smacked its presumptive host. President Bush Monday “put forth an anti-Rosa Parks judge,” Jackson said, presumably referring to Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. “He [Bush] sticks out his hand, and there’s always something up his sleeve,” Jackson added.

Jackson was a member of Dr. King’s entourage and famously cradled his head in his arms after he fatally was shot in April 1968 on the balcony of Memphis’s Lorraine Motel. Since then, Jackson has sullied his reputation with a parade of corporate shakedown schemes, love-ins with Latin thugs, such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, and a quixotic mission to dragoon NASCAR into hiring one or two black speed racers. Meanwhile, thousands of black boys and girls abandon high school every year as Jackson resists school-choice efforts that might offer them a fighting chance to learn a few skills to survive in this globally competitive, information-driven society. Apparently, they must wait as Jackson and today’s Democratic Left keeps marching on.

Detroit buried a giant on Wednesday. How sad that Rosa Parks is survived by pygmies.

Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Arlington, Va.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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