Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

December 21, 2007

Romney’s Figurative Stance on Civil Rights

Filed under: politics, religion — Tags: — codesmithy @ 12:33 pm

The church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a little history problem. No, I’m not talking about the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre. Nor, the Garden of Eden being in Missouri. Nor, Jesus walking around America, and Native Americans having red skin because they slaughtered another tribe of Israel.

No, the history problem I’m talking about is the fact that it took the church until 1978 that blacks were allowed into the priesthood. Some find that late. While, I can’t imagine a Republican picking up a lot of black votes. The white people who vote Republican usually like to have some plausible deniability on the matter of whether or not the person they are voting for is a racial bigot.

However, it should be noted that there is a parallel between blacks being viewed as cursed descendants of Cain and Native Americans as the cursed Lamanites. It is an example of religious indoctrination of racial bigotry and a theme in the dogma.

Alas, here comes Mitt Romney, Mormon, running for President of the United States. For some reason, he felt compelled to say that his father marched with Martin Luther King.

And I’m not going to distance myself in any way from my faith. But you can see what I believed and what my family believed by looking at, at our lives. My dad marched with Martin Luther King.

So, natural questions arise such as where? Romney’s answer: Grosse Pointe. Grosse Pointe? Really? Being a Michigan native, I have met people from Grosse Pointe. The way they describe it is as near Detroit. But, that doesn’t really do it justice. It is a very well to do suburb of Detroit. Not necessarily a place for Martin Luther King Jr. to hold a march. Indeed, this scenario doesn’t mesh with the historical record.
The Romney campaign has hence said that Romney meant the phrase “figuratively” and saying that “my dad marched with Martin Luther King” may mean different cities and different days.

The obvious conclusion is the Romney campaign lied. You can watch the clip. He didn’t mean it figuratively. He meant his father was there, with Martin Luther King, marching. Something, there is scant evidence for, which would be somewhat surprising considering George Romney was the Governor of Michigan at the time.

To me, the waffling is worse than the gaff. Fine, Mitt Romney made a mistake. His father and Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t march together. It may be news to Mitt Romney also. But, do we really want a another President who will not back away or admit a mistake?

It also displays the lengths people will go to defend a previous statement. When one assumes something can never can be wrong in the face of contradictory evidence, don’t be surprised if language is among one of the first casualties.



  1. codesmithy:

    First, read this next sentence carefully, since I’d like to avoid a stupid response arguing with any point I am not making here:

    I am not going to speak to whether Mitt’s statement was a knowing lie, a mistaken impression, a “figurative” notion of an actual — if unsubstantiated event (something like: “as a younger man, I saw my nation go to war with Vietnam”, despite not having actually “seen” a single soldier ship out), or an exaggeration of a true generality (as in, “my father marched in rallies orchestrated by MLK and the SCLC, and worked with MLK on various efforts, but they never actually ended up in the same march at the same place).

    Frankly, since the guy did march in King-organized rallies, I don’t see why people are so wired-up about whether the rally included King or only King organizers and other civil rights advocates. King was NOT the Civil Rights Movement, but only one leader in it. George Romney, both as MI Governor and Secretary of HUD, could reasonably be described as another such leader.

    Now, to the only real point of my argument with your contention:

    Describing Grosse Pointe as “not necessarily a place for Martin Luther King Jr. to hold a march” because it was a “well to do suburb of Detroit” is — or ought to be — an embarrassing comment to make…especially for someone who describes themselves as a “Michigan native”. This, however, merely betrays a bias held by a lot of Northern whites, who somehow thought that racism was limited to the South. The fact is that Grosse Pointe, like many Northern cities and towns, was a “sundown town” (a place where blacks would be subject to violence if they were still around after sundown), and excluded blacks by law and “gentlemen’s agreements”. Blacks were sent to black schools outside of town, they were not shown houses in town by real estate agents, etc. If an African American was beaten up or robbed, they would find the local police curiously unable to solve the crime. Blacks who did manage to buy a home from a white person would find their homes vandalized, dynamite thrown through their windows or under their porches, or their home would simply be burned down and the local fire department would somehow get lost on the way to the fire. Whites in places like Grosse Pointe saw no reason not to violently attack blacks who dared to venture into the wrong place or stay after dark. Census reports showed that the only blacks living in such places were domestics who lived in the houses of their employers — they could not even rent an apartment in the same town, so anyone who was not a live-in domestic would simply have to ride the bus to work from somewhere outside of town. There certainly was a reaons for Grosse Pointe to be the kind of place where King would march, and more than one King-organized march occurred there in the 1960s, as well as in several other Detroit suburbs — both “well to do” and middle-class — where blacks were allowed to work in the nearby auto plants, but not allowed to live in the same town. After George Romney became Secretary of HUD, he came back to one of the nearby suburbs to read local Democratic politicians the riot act over their failure to adhere to the administration’s “open housing” initiative, and he was attacked by the locals, with no help provided him by the local police. He was eventually forced to retreat to his car and was driven away as “well to do” and middle-class whites pelted his car with rocks and tried to block his exit. No one was ever prosecuted for this attack because the local Democratic police commissioner and the Democratic Mayor all professed not to have seen a thing untoward occur.

    If you are a Michigan native and don’t know the history of your own state, it’s likely not really your fault. You are probably suffering from the distorted view of history published by local racist newspapers and people who’d rather forget Michigan’s (by no means unique among Northern states) sordid civil rights past. (In fact, even into the 1990’s several “well to do” and middle-class Michigan cities and towns remain “sundown towns” to this day, even if you hadn’t noticed.)

    It sounds like you have good reason to be sympathetic with Mitt’s own faulty memory.

    Comment by cordeg — December 22, 2007 @ 9:37 pm

  2. I’m not going to debate the Michigan civil rights movement. However, “cordeg” I think you are reading too much into the “well to do” statement. I was talking about basic demographics of the city.

    Here are some modern statistics of Grosse Pointe, to the best of my knowledge, it wasn’t so different in the past.

    Estimated median household income is $81,300 for Grosse Pointe versus a state value of $46,039 and estimated house/condo value is $394,300 for Grosse Pointe versus a state value of $149,300.

    To your other point, is there a racial divide and racism in the North? Of course. There are other examples throughout the state, although one of the most striking is the difference between St. Joseph and Benton Harbor.

    The incredulity I was expressing in terms of the location was due to basic logistics. If you are a leader of a movement trying to help the disenfranchised and people with few means and resources, where would you hold a march. In Detroit with a substantial population of people you are trying to help? Or Grosse Pointe with practically none and remains to this day effectively segregated? If you said Grosse Pointe, I’m interested to know what protests you have participated in and where they were.

    For the record, I don’t apologize because someone tried to twist what I said into something unpalatable. It isn’t even close to the same standard. I do apologize for spelling “Grosse Pointe” as “Grosse Point” though. It is now corrected.

    Although, I will thank you for highlighting how much further we need to go to and problems we face to achieve basic equality in this nation.

    Comment by codesmithy — January 1, 2008 @ 6:40 am

  3. codesmithy:

    I just now noticed your reply, and suspect you will never see this response, but a brief remark is appropriate.

    First, the ” marks around “well to do” in my post were meant to be actual quotes (as in — i’m quoting your own words), not as “air quotes” (as in, i’m making fun of your word use). I have no doubt that Grosse Pointe is, in fact, “well to do”, and every place I used that phrase in my post was intended to denote the area and people were/are actually well off financially.

    This, of course, has nothing whatever to do with my point, and everything to do with what I think you are confused about. The notion that a well-off area would not be a natural/appropriate place for a MLK march is simply wrong-headed, and contradicted by the very simple fact that MLK did, in fact, see the need to hold marches in such areas — proven by the fact that he and the SCLC did hold marches in such areas. QED.

    My point was that the REASON that such areas where natural/appropriate places for a march such as Romney described is that many such places were INTENTIONALLY exclusively white; i.e., “sundown” towns and neighborhoods.

    You may think I have tried to “twist” what you said, but I have not. The question you pose in an attempt to prove you have been misunderstood (“If you are a leader…effectively segregated?” only serves to reiterate your own basic misunderstanding of the entire (modern) Civil Rights Movement, the purpose of MLK’s and the SCLC’s marches, and the unspoken “gentlemen’s agreement” by which Northern cities and suburbs managed to keep blacks out and pretend that it wasn’t happening. You mockingly suggest what you think is a stupid answer to your question — “If you said Grosse Pointe…” — when this is, in fact, a smart answer to the question, and precisely an answer that MLK and the SCLC actually gave at the time.

    Comment by cordeg — March 20, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

  4. cordeg:

    Are we seriously discussing this? Do you have nothing better to do than wail about the injustice of my expressed incredulity about the possibility of Martin Luther King, Jr. marching in Grosse Pointe (which by the way, he personally didn‘t do)? Is there no larger problem in your world than a person who expresses disbelief and shows some initial rejection of the following statements:
    Romney’s father marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in St. Joseph, MI.
    Romney’s father marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Jenison, MI.
    Romney’s father marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Holland, MI.

    Really? Is that what we are discussing? And the real problem is that when I express such incredulity I am completely mischaracterizing and misrepresenting the modern civil rights movement. Really!? Is that what we are discussing?

    Comment by codesmithy — March 21, 2008 @ 5:25 am

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