I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the good old days weren’t that good.
In the shadow of a national holiday honoring civil rights era hero Martin Luther King Jr., a Kansas lawmaker made an impassioned plea to return to the good old days of the Jim Crow era.
State Rep. Steve Alford (R-Ulysses) has some interesting ideas on why marijuana should not be legalized. If you aren’t familiar with Ulysses, Kansas, they are close enough to Colorado to smell the legal pot being smoked.
“What you really need to do is go back in the 30s when they outlawed all types of drugs in Kansas (and) across the United States, what was the reason they did that?” Rep. Alford told a town hall meeting. “One of the reasons why, I hate to say it, the African-Americans, they were basically users and they basically responded the worst off those drugs just because their character makeup, their genetics, and that.”
Call me crazy, but I don’t think he really hated to say it.
It’s hard to believe it has been 80 years since these silly myths were debunked but they still live in the shallow minds of the Sunflower State. Believe me, I’m not just picking on Kansas. I know there are people who cling to backwards beliefs in every state. Ignorance doesn’t discriminate — unlike Alford and all the old guys sitting around drinking coffee and telling each other that he has a point.
That action in the 1930s that Alford thought were so logically infallible included the work of a man who fought to outlaw marijuana named Harry Anslinger who became the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.
I would hope that Anslinger’s beliefs — which he stated as fact — would be relegated to history instead of quoted in current policy debates. Ansliger was known for arguing, “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
Anslinger wasn’t just worried that white women would smoke a joint and want to have sex with a non-white man while listening to satanic jazz music. He really didn’t like it that black men who smoked pot forgot their place.
“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men,” Anslinger said. The reason it is important to understand that Anslinger said these things is because he is also the one who pushed the idea that “the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races.”
You know, because of their “character makeup, their genetics and that” as Alford said, reviving Anslinger’s disturbing debates from the forgotten pages of history and inserting them into what is supposed to be a more enlightened modern society.
Rep. Alford is the real victim here — at least according to Alford. He only expressed his incredibly racist opinion after one of those legal marijuana hippies brought up “the whole race thing.” Just like on Scooby Doo — a cartoon that featured Shaggy who you know was using the Mystery Machine to consume illegal substances — Alford could have gotten away with his twisted old school racism if it weren’t for those meddling kids.
“And he came up and told me I’m a racist,” Alford said. “I’m about as far from being a racist as I can get.”
If you think black people are more susceptible to abusing drugs “because of their character makeup, their genetics and that” then you are not as far from being a racist as you can be. Your beliefs put you pretty close to the bullseye.
It has been 30 years since Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder was fired from a job talking about the National Football League on CBS for making racist comments. He had worked for CBS for more than a decade but when he said that the only thing “whites control now are the coaching jobs — the black talent is beautiful, it’s great, it’s out there. The only thing left for the whites is a couple of coaching jobs.” Snyder went on to say, “The slave owner would breed his big black (man) to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid … That’s where it all started.”
That was shocking enough to end a man’s career three decades ago, but we still have lawmakers today making very similar comments.
One of the reasons these people are able to hold these beliefs and elected office at the same time is the rampant enabling and excusing of their abhorrent thoughts.
One of Alford’s friends in the Kansas legislature, John Doll (R-Garden City), took up for his pal even though he didn’t necessarily want to second the motion.
“(He’s) not a racist,” Doll said. “But what he said, I disagree with adamantly. Hopefully he didn’t mean it how it sounded.”
I’m pretty good with words. Is there a something that statement could mean other than exactly how it sounded? Alford may not be a racist, but here is what we know, he reads his news where these thoughts are still espoused and the people who inform his opinions are also good old white boys who believe this nonsense.
Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer is running for Governor of Kansas as a Democrat. Brewer was also the first African-American to be elected Mayor of Wichita.
“It is hard to believe that in 2018, anyone would support the discredited and racist policies of the Jim Crow-era,” Brewer said.
As a black man who served honorably as the Mayor of Wichita, I find it hard to believe that Brewer really finds it that hard to believe that anyone would support Jim Crow era policies. Sure, Alford said the quiet parts out loud, but he is far from the only old white man out there holding ridiculous and prejudiced beliefs about those whose skin is slightly or significantly darker than their own.
Would you believe I had an elected official sit in my office in 2017 and ask sincerely why my family would adopt a black child? Would you believe this man also probably has friends who would say he isn’t a racist?
I’m not willing to allow men and women who cling to racial biases to continue to make policy for our cities, counties, states and our nation.
We’re better than this, and we have to stop allowing people to hold positions of power who hold beliefs that they are superior in character or genetics based simply on how much melanin is visible in their skin.
I have interviewed men who weren’t able to eat at a restaurant with the other members of their high school football team because of the color of their skin. They were also denied entrance into “whites only” movie theaters on road trips.
That was 60 years ago. I can’t imagine that anyone would advocate for a return to segregated schools, restaurants and water fountains. We shouldn’t let voices like Alford’s affect public debate on legalizing marijuana or any other policy position today.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at email@example.com.