From The Grio — What a way to mark Martin Luther King Day. Michael Reagan, son of Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States, chose January 17 to suggest the unspeakable. On the Fox News website, Reagan argued that his father was more of a friend to black people than President Obama. He even suggested that he “could make an even stronger case for my father, Ronald Reagan, as ‘our first black president'”, the way that Clinton was called America’s first black president.
Either Michael Reagan is out of his mind, living in a fantasy world, or he is engaging in the whitewashing of his father’s troubling legacy on race.
According to Reagan, his father attended a colorblind college, and let his black teammates sleep at the Reagan house rather than sleep on the bus after a segregated hotel denied them a room. Under his father’s administration, he claimed, black unemployment fell, income rose, and the black middle class thrived. In contrast, Reagan argued that black unemployment has increased under Obama.
“Today, as our nation honor’s [sic] Dr. King, less than a month before the hundredth birthday of Ronald Reagan, it’s fitting to note that Ronald Reagan did more to improve the lives of African-Americans than any other president since Abraham Lincoln,” Michael Reagan said. “Unfortunately, we have to acknowledge that America’s first black president has made life worse for us all — and especially for black Americans. History does not judge presidents by the color of their skin, but by the content of their policies.
Now let’s return to the real world. In reality, the Reagan legacy is replete with examples of disrespect and outright hostility towards African-Americans. As governor of California, Ronald Reagan signed the Mulford Act, which prohibited the public carrying of firearms. The law was passed specifically as a direct response to the Black Panther Party.
During the 1976 presidential campaign, he conjured up the racist and sexist image of the Cadillac-driving “welfare queen” as anecdotal evidence of fraud in the welfare system. “She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands,” Reagan said. “And she is collecting Social Security on her cards. She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names. Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.” The “welfare queen” fed into the worst stereotypes of black poverty and sexually promiscuous women.
When he ran for the White House in 1980, Ronald Reagan kicked off his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where the Klan murdered three civil rights workers 16 years earlier. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, an African-American and two Jewish Americans, were murdered during “Freedom Summer,” which was devoted to voter registration of blacks.