Reagan's racist call with Nixon echoes strongly today

Article Image

In a newly unearthed audio clip, then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan disparaged "monkeys" from African countries in a phone call with then-President Richard Nixon, according to the former director of Nixon's presidential library.

Posted: Aug 2, 2019 4:20 AM
Updated: Aug 2, 2019 4:21 AM

The release by the National Archives of a racist telephone conversation between President Richard Nixon and future President Ronald Reagan (then-governor of California) casts a strobe light on an uncomfortable fact: One of our most popular Presidents was far from the only commander-in-chief to display racial bigotry.

Reagan's description of Tanzanian delegates as "monkeys" still not comfortable wearing Western clothes, most notably shoes, offers a substantive illustration of what civil rights activists long alleged was a pattern of Reagan's anti-black racism, both as governor of California and President of the United States.

Nixon, whose own enmity towards African Americans helped propel him to the White House as the coded champion of "law and order," used Reagan's words on the call to offer his own distaste for African leaders who dared challenge the West on geopolitical matters.

If all of this sounds depressingly familiar, it should. President Donald Trump's tenure in the White House remains most notable for his consistent attacks on black and brown people, Americans and global citizens through rhetoric that has demonized and dehumanized entire populations, countries, regions and cities, with the city of Baltimore being only the latest target.

For some, Reagan's words will come as a surprise. Ronald Reagan, America's 40th President, is perhaps most fondly remembered as the former B-movie actor turned swaggering hero of the conservative right. But it shouldn't be a surprise.

In the 1960s Reagan tried to suppress teaching and protests by figures on the black left like Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver and student protesters at San Francisco State and elsewhere. He also famously supported a ban on open carry for loaded firearms as governor of California (only after the Black Panthers publicly asserted their right to armed self-defense) and in the 1970s he introduced the racially toxic phrase "welfare queen" into the lexicon of American politics.

If Richard Nixon opened up the Pandora's box of racially coded political rhetoric that cemented the Republican Party's "Southern strategy" of appealing to white voters turned off by the talk of civil rights, busing, and urban rebellion, Reagan offered the entire nation a telegenic icon who professed to have no public feelings of racial animus but an unflinching love for American exceptionalism and all of its accoutrements.

Reagan's racial politics proved to be both substantive and symbolic. His 1980 campaign appearance in Neshoba County, Mississippi (near the site of the notorious murders of civil rights activists Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Chaney in 1964) signaled to white voters where his allegiance lay on matters of racial justice. The Reagan Revolution's reliance on trickle-down economics, promotion of the Drug War in urban communities, and policy assault on the Great Society devastated poor black and brown communities who were unable to participate in the booming economy of the 1980s.

Perhaps most infamously, Reagan inspired a new generation of political conservatives (from religious Christians to think-tank academic ideologues to federal judges) who argued and struck down legal and legislative remedies that sought to promote racial justice in American democratic institutions. Appointing future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to the head the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission proved the tip of the iceberg for the Reagan administration's civil rights policies, which found the White House on the wrong side of virtually every single racial justice issue (from crime policy to racial apartheid in South Africa) except for one. Reagan signed the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday into law in 1983 well aware that any veto would have been overridden by Congress. The national embrace of King during the 1980s under a President whose policies were antithetical to the civil rights leaders' greatest political commitments and boldest dreams reflects an ever-present tension between race and democracy in America.

Whereas Reagan symbolically demonstrated his attention to the legacy of racial injustice through the passage of the King holiday, Donald Trump has gone in an entirely different direction. President Trump's recent visit to Jamestown, Virginia, where he extolled the virtues of democracy while virtually ignoring the labor of enslaved Africans who made colonial North America and its evolution into the United States possible, offers us the opportunity to re-examine the often fraught relationship between race and the presidency. Trump neither possesses President Nixon's voracious political instincts nor President Reagan's public air of dignified elegance -- yet all three have more in common on race matters than many would care to admit.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 137536

Reported Deaths: 2421
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin34657994
Ramsey14342362
Dakota10027138
Anoka9039151
Washington608972
Stearns599144
Scott349634
Olmsted331430
St. Louis307970
Wright260915
Clay236243
Nobles230916
Blue Earth20667
Carver18477
Kandiyohi17535
Sherburne173322
Rice167410
Mower153517
Winona127819
Chisago10832
Crow Wing106222
Lyon9966
Benton9769
Waseca9379
Beltrami9147
Otter Tail9017
Todd8656
Steele7823
Morrison77610
Itasca76317
Nicollet74718
Douglas7283
Polk7244
Freeborn6914
Le Sueur6456
Goodhue62511
Martin61518
McLeod6104
Becker5884
Watonwan5794
Isanti5715
Pine5540
Chippewa4663
Carlton4622
Mille Lacs42715
Hubbard4103
Dodge4040
Wabasha3970
Cass3905
Pipestone35917
Rock3484
Meeker3453
Brown3333
Yellow Medicine2926
Roseau2900
Murray2893
Cottonwood2860
Redwood28411
Fillmore2640
Sibley2603
Renville25812
Wadena2553
Faribault2390
Kanabec22510
Jackson2171
Houston2121
Swift2091
Pennington2071
Unassigned19353
Lincoln1890
Stevens1871
Aitkin1862
Koochiching1725
Pope1650
Lac qui Parle1443
Big Stone1431
Wilkin1404
Marshall1311
Lake1260
Norman1210
Mahnomen1172
Clearwater1140
Grant994
Red Lake812
Traverse580
Kittson490
Lake of the Woods441
Cook170

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 117876

Reported Deaths: 1666
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk19173289
Woodbury728597
Johnson590630
Black Hawk5727101
Linn5692132
Dubuque529558
Scott466241
Story403918
Dallas348544
Pottawattamie326744
Sioux247017
Buena Vista226812
Marshall204436
Webster189115
Plymouth167831
Wapello154162
Clinton150227
Muscatine148758
Des Moines140910
Cerro Gordo140227
Crawford136314
Warren12737
Carroll116813
Jasper112334
Henry10745
Marion103211
Lee95910
Tama95837
Delaware80213
Dickinson7529
Wright7341
Boone7269
Mahaska70924
Bremer6879
Harrison67315
Washington66711
Jackson6463
Benton5982
Lyon5568
Clay5414
Louisa52515
Winnebago50219
Hardin4837
Winneshiek4839
Hamilton4784
Cedar4777
Kossuth4770
Buchanan4625
Poweshiek46211
Jones4544
Clayton4503
Floyd44011
Emmet43520
Iowa4189
Page4130
Guthrie40715
Cherokee4062
Mills4053
Sac4034
Cass4023
Butler3883
Fayette3844
Franklin38218
Shelby3812
Allamakee3809
Chickasaw3641
Madison3643
Clarke3573
Humboldt3383
Hancock3314
Grundy3186
Palo Alto3162
Calhoun3124
Osceola2890
Mitchell2831
Howard2749
Monroe26211
Union2524
Taylor2482
Jefferson2451
Monona2452
Appanoose2333
Pocahontas2322
Fremont2091
Lucas2066
Ida1962
Greene1880
Van Buren1812
Montgomery1807
Davis1794
Adair1771
Keokuk1641
Decatur1530
Audubon1511
Worth1460
Wayne1323
Ringgold922
Adams830
Unassigned150
Rochester
Clear
36° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 30°
Mason City
Clear
38° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 31°
Albert Lea
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 36°
Austin
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 51° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 35°
Charles City
Clear
41° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 38°
Tracking a breezy weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Officials narrow list of city administrator candidates

Image

Covid-19 cases continue to climb in Cerro Gordo County

Image

Trump rally gathering guidelines

Image

Sara's Evening Forecast - Wednesday

Image

Douglas Trail dry but the bridge over Zumbro frozen

Image

Early snow impact on farmers

Image

Mail In Voters Advised To hand Deliver Ballots

Image

Early Snowfall Has Little Impact On Harvesting

Image

Mabel Canton School Referendum

Image

Poll Watcher volunteers needed

Community Events