U.S. History 1877-Present 13.4b: Reagan and Racial Tensions
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about the government’s progressive racial policies.
There were votes to be had, and the Reagan Administration felt they knew how to get ‘em. [Reagan promotion poster]
It started with the South, where most whites had been diehard Democrats ever since Lincoln…
who was actually a Republican… freed the slaves. [Statue of Lincoln]
In the 60’s, however, the Democratic Party splintered, when the JFK/LBJ faction pushed [Splinter falls off the Democratic Party logo]
for Civil Rights, leaving Southern Democrats out in the cold. [Southern Democrat stood in the snow]
Though the South had stuck with Carter, Reagan saw a chance to use this resentment, transforming
the South into the Republican stronghold that it is today.
See all the red on the map? [Map full of red states]
Yeah...that’s no ketchup accident.
But the Great Communicator, as he was called by everyone but Nancy… [Reagan behind a newspaper as his wife tries to talk to him]
… mastered the art of communicating about race… in a roundabout way.
He spoke out on the specific issues that were important to people. [The word race on a roundabout sign]
In the South, he talked about how he was for state’s rights, or giving state governments [Reagab at a podium giving a speech]
more power to do their thing without the feds butting in like, uh… meddling in-laws.
Fair enough, but in the South…state’s rights had always been code for…well, letting
the South enslave and/or oppress black people.
State’s rights had, in fact, been the South’s justification for seceding from the Union… [The South breaks away from the US]
the act that sparked the Civil War.
Reagan, of course, was a savvy guy, who’d surely read his history books, so he was totally [Reagan in a library]
aware of the implication.
It got kinda iffy when he talked about how hard he was crushing on state’s rights…
…in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where 3 civil rights activists had famously been murdered [Photos of the 3 activists]
It was subtle, yeah…but not so subtle that the crowd didn’t go wild…we’re guessing
there was probably a rebel yell or two.
We should also point out that none of this is conjecture.
Top Reagan advisors have since confirmed that it was exactly what the Reagan team set out
And the Prez wasn’t only tapping into racial tensions in the South. [Lee Atwater sat in a cafe]
Issues like forced bussing, which sent inner city black kids to formerly white dominated
schools, were a major sticking point in the North as well. [Bus full of school kids]
White people all over America were also angry about affirmative action, which they claimed
was actually a racist policy that discriminated against whites.
White people problems, right?
Anyway, Reagan bashed all of these policies, while also bashing the so-called…welfare [Reagan hitting the policies with a baseball bat]
He was known to tell anecdotes about a black woman from Chicago, who drove a Cadillac and
got $150,000 a year from government programs. [Woman with the car and a check smiling]
This person, uh…did not quite…exist.
But the myth that poor blacks weren’t actually all that poor, and were, in fact, leeching
away half the country’s tax dollars was one that many Northern and Southern whites
were ready, willing and happy to believe. [Man looks angry]
The reality was that 65% of the federal budget was going toward Defense, Medicare, and Social
Security, which are all pretty much color-blind programs. [Pie chart of federal spending]
Even welfare, which Reagan often implied was a program for black people, benefited way
more white folks than African-Americans.
So the whole idea that welfare was just free money for black people was simply fiction…and [A book titled 'Free Money for Black People' is stamped bad fiction]
bad fiction at that.
Anyway, the Reagan Revolution was about much, much more than racism.
Most Americans weren't even aware that they were being racist.
There were plenty of other, totally valid reasons to support Reagan's movement.
But it’s undeniable that the Reagan camp did send out coded, racist messages to tap [Coded message reveals itself]
into the votes of …bigots across America.
Hope everyone found the decoder ring in their box of Cracker Jacks… [Kid looks shocked]