Every now and then liberals, white liberals in particular, bend over so far backwards to defend the down-trodden black man that they fall on their ass. One such case occurred this week with respect to a comment made by GOP Presidential contender Rick Perry.
Last week while visiting Rick Hill, South Carolina, Perry was asked about the civil rights movement. He commented that the country had made “great strides” in civil rights and now it was important to create an economic environment in which companies could succeed.
I first heard about this supposed gaffe when MSNBC’s Chris Jansing discussed it with Politics Daily writer Alex Wagner during a Matthews-less edition of “Hardball”. I have a major junior high school crush on Alex Wagner but that didn’t stop me from wondering what the heck was going on between the two of them and their outrage over Perry’s comment. Their assessment was that Perry was making a despicable comparison of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement to making life easy for fat cat corporations. In so doing, they said, he was diminishing and disrespecting King in particular and blacks in general.
Then in preparation for writing this piece, I noticed that ThinkProgress.org similarly had their nose out of joint about the quote:
To compare the “struggles” of corporations who often pay virtually nothing in taxes to the plight of black Americans in pre-Civil Rights America is remarkably ignorant, even for Perry. Martin Luther King Jr. argued that economic rights for the poor were as essential as political rights, and was a great advocate for unions and the very anti-poverty programs that Perry believes are unconstitutional. While King fought for a living wage and more welfare for the poor, Perry fights for more corporate welfare.
Folks, it really is time to get a grip. There is no doubt that in many ways, Rick Perry is a horse’s ass. I would sooner move to Canada than vote for him. However on this point, he is expressing a very natural opinion for a pro-capitalism, laissez-faire economy politician. Let’s be honest. You can give a minority all the “rights” in the world but if they can’t find a job, then you really haven’t achieved anything, have you? Maybe I’m being naive on this one but I see Perry simply saying that after doing the heavy legislative lifting of the civil rights era, we now have to follow-up with creating an economic climate that employs Americans, all Americans. He explicitly said that folks need to know they can come here and make their dreams come true. Not too different from the words found at the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Notice the quote doesn’t say, “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free so they can collect unemployment indefinitely because there really is no opportunity here.”
It’s time we liberals stop seeing an attack on minorities around every corner. If we get the wax out of our ears and listen to what Perry actually said, we can see how what he advocates is an essential, albeit insufficient, ingredient to minority empowerment.