21 October 2011
On a bus tour covering parts of North Carolina and Virginia, President Barack Obama paid a visit to Jamestown after spending the previous night in Greensboro. The purpose of these appearances is to discuss The American Jobs Act with local residents. Although this official visit by the president was billed as being closed to the public, more than 500 tickets were distributed to local residents, politicians and dignitaries to hear the president speak.
President Obama arrived at the Lucy Perry Ragsdale YMCA in Jamestown on an armored bus. The president was received with roaring applause and cheers. He thanked teachers in attendance for their commitment and said he was impressed by the extraordinary work of faculty at nearby Guilford Technical Community College.
As for why the president and his advisors chose towns in N.C. with a heavy Republican presence as tour stops, the president said, “I’m not the Democratic or the Republican president, I’m the president. I don’t care if you’re Democrat or Republican, we’re all Americans.”
This tour was also an opportunity for the president to reach out to the public for help in getting a jobs bill passed. Obama encouraged those in attendance to call or write their Congressional representative to help garner support. The president stated, “The economic crisis facing the U.S. was not created overnight and it won’t be solved overnight.” He put the need for jobs in perspective by explaining that a lot of people are looking for work while some are postponing retirement primarily based on the state of the economy.
Last week the entire Republican majority of the U.S. Senate voted against the Obama plan to generate jobs while having an alternative plan which does not address the jobs crisis. Obama said the Republican plan permits Wall Street to write its own rules, rolls back federal environmental legislation, allows for more oil drilling and repeals healthcare reform. “That’s a plan but it’s not a jobs plan,” said the president. “If they (Republicans) continue to vote against steps to put people back to work, they won’t have to answer to me, they will have to answer to you,” he said.
But why would the poorest, least educated, most ill-housed and most unhealthy region of the country be solidly conservative? Conserving such poverty seems unnatural. So what are the people of the South conserving?
Clearly, historically, the rich - be they slave-owners or possessors’ of other wealth or power - were conserving their privilege. They used the fear of blacks to manipulate whites and blacks politically to keep them separated, and from rebelling and joining forces to fight their mutual state of unemployment, poverty, lack of health care, housing and education.
Poor whites were not told the truth about the Civil War - that they were fighting to protect the slave-owners’ economic self-interest. Instead they were told they were fighting for states’ rights. Rather than join the civil rights movement for social, economic and political equality for all in the ‘60s, poor whites were told to stay away because African Americans were being manipulated by “communists” and “socialists” like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and now Obama.
So when the first 15 Presidents avoided resolving the race issue the result was an explosion, the American Civil War. And when white politicians know the American weakness on race, and exploit it politically, we can never really get to the jobs discussion.
Dealing with and getting beyond “Niggerhead” may actually be the key to addressing the needs of the American people and unlocking a real discussion on jobs. •
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