Anointing himself liaison for GOP minority outreach, he’s been knocking on doors of African Americans with increasing frequency, unabashedly seeking support for the GOP and presumably his budding presidential aspirations.
I support every political party’s efforts at inclusion, a core goal of the civil rights struggle for which I and many other Kentucky leaders fought. African Americans fought long and hard for the right to economic, legal, political and social inclusion.
But Sen. Paul is forgetting a critical concept: You must earn our community’s trust and support. We don’t give it freely. We especially don’t give it to leaders who shake our hands while spitting in our faces.
If the African-American community delves behind Paul’s outstretched hand, we find a man whose words and deeds expose a troubling belief system, whose votes have consistently opposed policies that advance our community.
Let’s give Paul the closer look he requests following the recent 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, landmark legislation that outlawed racist voter registration requirements and gave all Americans, regardless of their skin color, the right to be served in all facilities open to the public.
Paul disagreed with the Civil Rights Act, and believes private businesses should be able to discriminate. Sen. Paul, in explaining his opposition to the Civil Rights Act, said, “I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant, but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership.” Paul would support the decision by Rich’s lunch counter in Atlanta to refuse to serve the Rev. Martin Luther King.
Paul wrote a critique of the Fair Housing Act, another landmark bill that prevents discrimination in the selling, renting or financing of housing. “At first glance,” Paul wrote, “who could object to preventing discrimination in housing?” But then he goes on to ask if discrimination should “be prohibited for private entities such as a church, bed and breakfast or retirement neighborhood that doesn’t want noisy children? Absolutely not.
Decisions concerning private property and associations should in a free society be unhindered. As a consequence, some associations will discriminate. … A free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination — even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin.”
After the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, Paul said the country has moved beyond a time where the color of someone’s skin should factor into voting. “We have an African-American president. … There doesn’t seem to be any sort of systemic problem like there was in the South with precluding blacks from voting.” Recently he made clear he supported discriminatory voter ID laws: “There’s nothing wrong with it. … I don’t really object to having some rules with how we vote.”
Not concerned by Paul’s words? How about his staff:
Paul hired Jack Hunter, first to help him write his book, then in his Senate office, despite Hunter’s appearances in a Confederate flag mask, his toasting John Wilkes Booth, saying his heart was in the right place when he assassinated Abraham Lincoln, and his membership in a group that the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate group, among other controversial comments.
Don’t care about his staff? Here are Paul’s actions:
• Opposes an increase in the minimum wage.
• Wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, taking health care from 421,000 Kentuckians.
• Introduced legislation to dramatically cut food stamps.
• Wants to abolish the U.S. Education Department.
• Opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would ensure men and women are paid equally for equal work.
• Voted against the Violence Against Women Act.
• Opposed lowering the interest rates for millions of student loan borrowers.
Do not be fooled by Sen. Paul. I appreciate sincere efforts to work with our community and look for ways to better the lives of our children. But we have fought too long to give our precious vote to one who with one breath asks for support, and with the next promises to tear down the foundations of our progress, while surrounding himself with hate-filled people.
Georgia Powers was elected to the Kentucky Senate in 1968, the only woman and the only person of color in the 38-member chamber upon that election. She served in the Kentucky Senate for 21 years.