Sorry, but ‘Gone With the Wind’ is not a history book

The White House issued a proclamation last week, of the sort that most presidents have issued about historical events that deserve commemorating, but that were missing, for the most part, during the Trump reign.

This one marked the 60th anniversary of the first Freedom Rides, on May 4, 1961, when traveling on a bus meant risking your life, if you were with an integrated group, sitting in a spot of your choice. Those southbound heroes were willing to face beatings and the unknown at the hands of fellow citizens intent on stopping progress by any means necessary. Angry and afraid, the violent white supremacist mobs refused to acknowledge the humanity of African Americans or the validity of any law that looked forward not back.

It’s the reality — and not the myth of uncomplicated greatness the country has told the world and itself for far too long.

And it’s not always pretty.

For that reason, many Republicans want to “cancel” it, to use a word today’s conservatives have been misusing with reckless abandon. They’d like to erase the history and the essential lessons that reveal so much about how and why America is so divided and its systems — of health care, housing, education and more — so inequitable in 2021.

Righting economic wrongs of the past

Cecilia Rouse is the first Black woman to chair the Council of Economic Advisers, a White House think tank of sorts on economic policy. Yes, she has an impressive background — dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and a member of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.

But her mandate seems near impossible. She’s been charged by President Biden to steer the nation out of the economic wreckage from the pandemic with equitable policies for all races — all at a time when the Black community has been hit harder than most. Mary C. Curtis speaks one-on-one with Rouse.

The tax lady cometh

What do paying taxes and racial equity have to do with one another? As it turns out, quite a lot since American tax policy is written in a way that keeps Black Americans impoverished, according to Professor Dorothy Brown, author of  “The Whiteness of Wealth: How the Tax System Impoverishes Black Americans — And How We Can Fix It.” Brown, who has been trying to make this point for decades is finally being heard. This week, we delve into the world of taxes and racism and listen to the compelling research, data and narrative that Dorothy Brown has put together.

When ‘America First’ is a ticket to last place

It came and went in a second, in political time, a proposed idea that proved too racist for the politician reportedly behind it. But an “America First” caucus that was disavowed, sort of, by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and several of her Republican colleagues who at first seemed ready to sign up should be treated as more than a ridiculous sideshow.

The notions that fueled a “draft” stating the group’s principles have lingered, becoming part of a conversation that’s becoming a little less shocking and a lot more routine.

That’s one takeaway from Greene’s enormous fundraising haul, despite her lack of House committee assignments and useful endeavors. Even though the Georgia Republican backed away when the caucus’s endorsement of “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” leaked out, the very idea seemed to excite some GOP lawmakers and ignite a constituency that is larger than many “real” Americans would like to admit.

You know, the real American citizens of every race, creed, color, orientation and national origin, who believe in the ideals of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence without reservation, despite the country’s history of both triumphs and failures on that score. They are the Americans not surprised, but still disappointed that too many of their neighbors, co-workers and elected representatives are willing to toss democracy if that’s what it takes to hold on to the power they perceive to be slipping away, and justify it all with a sense of superiority — cultural and otherwise.

DNC Chair Jaime Harrison

Jaime Harrison gained national attention last year when he broke fundraising records running against South Carolina incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham. While Harrison didn’t win the election, his candidacy gave notice that the Old South is now the New South. Mary C. Curtis sits down with the Democratic National Committee chair and talks race, his grandfather’s life lesson and what 2022 — yes 2022 — may hold.

‘More people are afraid of the police than community violence’

It’s been 30 years since the world saw Rodney King on video being beaten by Los Angeles police officers. Since then, the list of Black people killed at the hands of police has grown — Eric Garner, Daunte Wright and Ma’Khia Bryant, the 16-year old Black girl shot hours before Chauvin was pronounced guilty of murdering George Floyd. Mary C. Curtis speaks to activist and podcast host DeRay McKesson on how to challenge the power of the police and how policies can be changed for the better.

One Black life mattered, this time

Remember when three Black women proclaimed that Black Lives Matter? It was in 2013 after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the fatal shooting of unarmed Black teen Trayvon Martin in Florida. It seemed so essential and overdue for Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi to found a movement to defiantly claim what America had too often denied.

Yet it was controversial. The willfully blind countered with “All Lives Matter,” as though saying that would make it so. Then, there were suggestions: “Don’t you think it would be less divisive if the signs read ‘Black Lives Matter, Too?’”

In all honesty, anyone who did not get it was not going to with the addition of one three-letter word. But then the world witnessed Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin press his knee on the neck of George Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds. That the doubters needed video evidence was infuriating, when Black and brown Americans had been bearing witness for hundreds of years. But communities craving visibility and justice welcomed the opened eyes and protests by all ages and races.

It was certainly never a sure thing that Chauvin would be found guilty on all murder and manslaughter charges, as he was. There was also video of the killings of Philando Castile in Minnesota in 2016 and Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C., in 2015. Yet in Castile’s case, police officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty. And in Scott’s case, after the first prosecution ended in a hung jury, it took a federal prosecution to gain a plea from former police officer Michael Slager — despite the evidence a brave citizen recorded of Slager shooting Scott in the back, taking aim while standing 15 to 20 feet away, and then throwing his Taser down to concoct a false story for his department to swallow and regurgitate as truth. (Another bit of mild relief this week as Slager’s 20-year sentence was upheld.)

No wonder so many were holding our collective breath.

Unique circumstances

If corporations are people, they just might have an opinion

That Pepsi bottle on the counter looks so out of place. My husband has always been a Diet Coke man. It’s a matter of principle, he tells me, even as he admits he prefers “The Real Thing.” Coca-Cola’s statement disapproving of Georgia’s new voting restrictions was too little, too late, and that’s that, he says. All of that puts the Atlanta-based soft drink giant in a bind, since even its belated critical stand was too much for backers of the bill, who are also banishing Coke from their own fridges, they say.

What’s a company to do?

I can’t feel too sorry for Coca-Cola, Delta and the rest, though, since they’ve been playing the political game forever while pretending to be above it all. And I have to stifle a laugh at the Republican politicians who are admonishing corporations and sports leagues now that the bills the GOP instigated aren’t getting a pass. These are the same pols who eagerly accepted campaign donations and good PR in days past.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is astute enough to recognize why his furrowed brow and outraged words are landing with a thud. It’s why his story is constantly changing. He told companies to stay out of politics, was called on it, then said he meant to only offer advice that business leaders read the fine print before opening their mouths and closing their pocketbooks.

Jim Crow 2.0

After a heated and contentious presidential election in 2020, voting rights are under attack. Georgia just passed a law that makes it harder for those who may be disenfranchised to cast their ballots. Other states are following suit. Mary C. Curtis speaks to Rashad Robinson, president of the social justice organization Color of Change, on what is at stake and what is being done to curtail the rollback of eligible voters to make their voices heard.

Pandemics and gun violence are real life, not ‘theater’

Perhaps Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky needs a refresher course on the meaning of the word “theater.” His GOP colleague Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas could listen in.

The former recently initiated a verbal brawl with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the infectious disease specialist who has been providing information and advice to guide Americans dealing, along with the rest of the world, with a deadly pandemic. The latter accused anyone proposing the consideration of gun restrictions, in light of two horrific mass shootings in the space of a week, of “ridiculous theater.”

Now, I realize the term “theatrical” can be used as an insult hurled at someone accused of exaggeration, but what is happening in America is a fact. So let me offer my own definition: “Theater” is the thrill of escaping from it all in a darkened hall with a group of strangers, to see and hear professionals act or sing or dance, and to be uplifted by the experience, if only for an hour or two.

And it’s something we’ve been deprived of during this past, very long year amid the pain of COVID-19, with deadly gun violence that has not abated as a backdrop, and so much more.