"Ronald Reagan 'tortured' blacks."
One Sunday morning, as I drove to my local tennis court to play a match, I heard a black radio commentator give that assessment of the now late, great 40th president. Imagine my conflict. After all, here I am, about to selfishly work on my backhand, while having allowed Reagan to busy himself by "torturing" members of my race.
The Reagan-hated-blacks routine resurfaced during the week of his memorial services and tributes. This indictment includes the following charges: he cut social spending; he showed his latent racism by supporting Bob Jones University; he gave a states' rights speech in Philadelphia, Miss., where three civil rights workers were killed; he "insulted" the lone black member of his Cabinet; he opposed race-based preferences; he again demonstrated racial insensitivity by pursuing a policy of "constructive engagement" with the apartheid regime of South Africa; he attempted to fire the black female chair of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
Did Reagan cut social spending?
Not according to the Congressional Research Service. Federal spending for social programs increased from $344.3 billion in 1981 to $412 billion in 1989, a 19.7 percent increase using 1982 dollars. As a percentage of Gross National Product, social spending during Reagan's two terms averaged 1.73 percent. By contrast, during the Carter years, social spending, as a percentage of GNP, averaged 1.65 percent.
Reagan showed his racism by supporting Bob Jones University.
The Reagan administration initially argued that, despite Bob Jones University's policy against interracial dating, the university still deserved its tax-exempt status. Reagan promptly reversed his position, and asked Congress to pass a bill prohibiting tax-exempt status for segregated schools.
Reagan signaled his racism by giving a campaign speech in Philadelphia, Miss.
Does it matter that when Reagan left Philadelphia, Miss., he traveled to New York to give a speech before the Urban League, a major civil rights organization? Some did, indeed, interpret Reagan's speech in Philadelphia, Miss., as a signal to anti-black Southerners. According to Lou Cannon, author of "Ronald Reagan: The Presidential Portfolio," the "states' rights speech" so bothered Nancy Reagan that she pushed for a shakeup in Reagan's campaign to avoid any other such missteps. Not exactly segregation then, segregation today, segregation tomorrow.
Reagan insulted a black member of his Cabinet.
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