Rep. Reginald Meeks
A people who do not remember their history are doomed to repeat it. You know the message: learn from your past or you will continue to repeat mistakes into the future. In honor of Black History Month, ponder these few observations about our history…
In the 11 years following the Civil War, 17 Blacks were elected to Congress. By 1908 laws in 8 southern states prevented Blacks from voting. After that, no Blacks were elected to Congress until 1973. Without a doubt, the numbers of Blacks, women, Latinos, Asians, and gay elected officials has skyrocketed, by comparison. Whether their communities have seen resulting progress remains up for discussion.
In West Louisville, a small group of residents are reduced to standing on a corner, begging for an economic development project and jobs. Per pupil spending in Kentucky continues to be widely differentiated between school districts, and there are calls for potentially even greater funding discrepancies with demands for charter schools.
Between 1918 and 1919, 136 Blacks were lynched; including men, women, and children. At least 10 WWI veterans still in uniform were among the victims.
Many question whether Stand Your Ground laws insulate questionable legal outcomes in a growing number of cases. Just days ago, Michael Dunn, a white 47-year-old software developer was acquitted following his conviction on multiple counts of attempted murder, for shooting into a car full of teenagers playing loud music in their car outside a Jacksonville convenience store in 2012. Jordan Davis, a black 17-year-old, was killed in the shooting, but the jury couldn't reach a verdict on the first-degree murder charge against Dunn. A mistrial was declared on that count. This event occurs just 7 months after another Floridian was acquitted for the murder of 17-year-old Trevon Martin under questionable circumstances.
The FBI reports that in 2012 law enforcement agencies reported that 3,297 single-bias hate crime offenses were racially motivated. Of these offenses, 66.1 percent were motivated by anti-black bias.
In the 1920s and 1930s, 50 percent of Black women who worked were employed in other peoples' homes. Most worked from 7am-9pm, 6 days/week for 5 cents/hour.
Recently, we voted to raise the minimum wage for tipped and non-tipped wage earners. Some contend even this gradual raise will kill job growth, close businesses, and is too much. What happens to this bill in the Senate will be instructive for us all. Pay attention [pun intended]. I could go on…
As you ponder, know this-being Black and in office is no panacea for progress. While most will not say it, it is commonly believed in my community that one has to know at least some of the opposition President Obama faces comes from the planned and purposeful distortion and attempted destruction of this President’s legacy. Make this Black POTUS appear ineffective and any future candidate-of-color will also be presumed to be ineffective--a type of professional lynching many of us readily understand.
Individual acts of violence against Black and Latino males continue to be sanctioned by the state in laws and policies having disproportionate impacts on communities of color. Stand Your Ground is simply the most recent high profile law having such an effect. Meantime, the inbreeding of NRA policies and gun manufacturers' interests remain hidden from public view and scrutiny--including the fact that for years the law firm of the current head of that group has represented and defended high profile gun manufacturer clients. “Good Gun Policies Make Good Business Sense.” I get that; just be honest enough to say it!
All this pales in the shadow of a vote taken last week. HCR 37 would allow the study of alternative voting centers as a way to increase voter participation and decrease costs to county governments. Supporters of the Kentucky Farm Bureau fell on their swords, not wanting to even find out if the civic and fiscal benefits might be there to benefit both voters and county governments! Allegedly, KFB heard voices and saw boogie men and haints somewhere in the bill…so they just didn’t even wanna know.
SMH. These folks obviously believe ignorance is bliss. Thankfully, we have the Senate, with its enlightened leadership, to review the measure and will be closely working with them to have a hearing on the matter in order to flesh out the facts…just so we will know.
CONTACT ME: I encourage you to contact me directly at 502.564.8100 or write me at Rm. 329C, Capitol Annex, and 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601. I am on FACEBOOK at http://www.facebook.com and online at http://reginaldmeeks.com. To reach any particular legislator, contact our toll-free number at 800.372.7181.
For the deaf or hard-of-hearing, that number is 800.896.0305.