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Reagan Legacy Mixed Bag in Black America

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As soon as I learned of the passing of former President Ronald Regan, I started searching for a photo that Sam Martin, publisher of the American Newspaper, ...

took of me and Ronald Reagan back when Reagan was running for governor of California.

Of course he became Governor and later President of the United States. I was a young reporter volunteering as a staff member with the American Newspaper and the Republicans were hosting a fundraiser at the National Orange Showgrounds.

Being in the newspaper business, I was compelled to follow Reagan’s career. I remember begin asked by the late Benton “PK” Blakely to chaperone some San Bernardino youth to Disneyland as part of a larger youth conference. PK was a member of Mayor Al Ballard’s staff and was in charge of community involvement. After the event was over he told me that the reason these young people were able to participate in the conference and outing to Disneyland was through the Republican governor. Of course, that governor was Ronald Reagan. And for some of those kids, it was the first time they had such an experience.

Now I don’t know what went wrong from the time Reagan first became governor and later while president, but there seemed to be a disconnect between what he was saying and the action taken in the Black Community. The words he used sounded good to Black America and seemed to sound great to White America, but even better to the extreme ultra conservative segment of our society that likes to blame Blacks and the poor for the effects of racism and poverty without examining the systemic forces at work. During his first election the KKK publicly stated that Reagan’s platform sounded as though they had written the platform. Regan always sent mixed signals to our community.

We knew we were in for a rough and rocky road as it relates to civil rights, when he fired the striking air traffic controllers. He hired General Colin Powell, and then wanted to appoint Bork to the Supreme Court and turn back the hands of time on the civil rights gained prior to his election. He signed the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday bill and later had to call Coretta Scott King and apologize because he was originally against the bill. It was always a mixed signal coming from his mouth and actions. As a result of that he destroyed some of our dreams and gave us nightmares in Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich, Russ Limbaugh and others who touted a leaner non-intrusive government while they did everything in their power to make us a nonentity in America.

I guess that is why he dubbed himself the great communicator because not too many people could say they are going to reduce government while piling up the biggest budget deficit in the country’s history. Now I admire a man who can look you in the eye and do that. I appreciate his remarks on communism: “Tear down this Wall” or “Make my Day” or “Here we go Again.” Whether you agree with his politics or not he did teach all of us something with his life. You must learn to communicate with the masses and love your mate. Now those are two concepts that he illustrated with some consistency. Our world will be better off if we take that from his life regardless of political affiliation.

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