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Abbott’s record “…is more befitting a grand wizard than a grand marshal…”
Governor Greg Abbott often presents himself as sensitive and sympathetic to racial concerns, while adopting policies and taking actions overtly hostile to Texas minority citizens. His most recent cynical effort along these lines backfired.
Abbott got himself invited to serve as the honorary grand marshal in a
North Texas Martin Luther King, Jr. parade, using the MLK celebration to give the appearance of respect for Dr. King without subjecting himself to any real scrutiny. Local minority leaders, however, were on to Abbott’s MLK hypocrisy. The Arlington NAACP called on Abbott to withdraw from the parade and encouraged citizens to boycott the event if he did show up. Other minority leaders weighed in as citizens registered major online outrage. Abbott refused to withdraw, insisting on imposing himself upon the community. However, it became so apparent that Abbott was creating division and insulting the memory of Dr. King, that the City of Arlington cancelled the parade by refusing to waive required fees needed for a permit.
In a column published in today’s Dallas Morning News, the Reverend Frederick Haynes called out Governor Abbott in the most appropriate and effective way possible – with hard facts demonstrating that Abbott’s record is more hostile and damaging to African American, Hispanic and other minority Texans than any Governor in modern times.
Frederick Douglas Haynes, Contributor
The recent Dallas Morning News editorial defending Gov. Greg Abbott's role as honorary grand marshal in a North Texas parade honoring Martin Luther King Jr. fails to understand the damage done and hostility directed to minority Texans by Abbott. Moreover, it reads as a disrespectful lecture to local minority leaders, presuming to tell us when we should, or should not, be offended.
Abbott's actions as a public official in Texas are a record that is more befitting a grand wizard than a grand marshal of a parade celebrating King. Objections to Abbott are not based on partisanship or broad, long-past injustices. His attacks on minority civil rights, voting rights, education and economic opportunity are recent, ongoing and doing damage in real time.
- Abbott helped devise and enact congressional, state Senate and state House racially gerrymandered district plans that were ruled by federal courts to violate the voting and constitutional rights of African Americans and Latino Texans. He is currently using our taxpayer funds to defend his discriminatory actions in federal court.
- Abbott enables vote suppression efforts in Texas by falsely claiming widespread voter fraud absent any credible evidence. He helped enact the most restrictive and suppressive voting laws in the nation and, again, is using our tax money now to defend his discriminatory actions in court.
- Abbott has failed to responsibly address the display of Confederate monuments on our State Capitol grounds. He even refuses to call for removal of a historically incorrect plaque hanging on our Capitol walls that denies the Civil War was a rebellion or that sustaining slavery was an underlying cause.
- Abbott refuses to expand Medicaid in Texas, leaving millions of poor and middle-class Texans without access to basic health care and blocking the creation of hundreds of thousands of Texas jobs.
Abbott's relatively soft rhetoric and low-key demeanor may be misleading to those outside our community who assume goodwill and are not familiar with the impact of his actions. Perhaps this type of misunderstanding is why the Dallas Morning News editorial chose to criticize the protest against Abbott's appearance rather than criticize him for imposing himself inappropriately on our community.
The policies and politics of Abbott contradict everything the drum major for justice, Martin Luther King Jr., lived and was martyred for. Instead of serving as grand marshal in the MLK parade, the governor should study and learn from the life and work of King and work with our community to craft an agenda that will bring the dream to fruition, instead of causing a nightmare for black, brown and impoverished communities.
The editorial references and gives support to my call for Abbott to meet and discuss his policies and actions. Our community would welcome this type of frank, in-person exchange with the governor.
We will not, however, stay quiet while Abbott attempts to gain personal and political goodwill he neither earned nor deserves.
As King himself told us, "There comes a time when silence is betrayal." We will not betray our duty to our community and to the memory of King while both are being exploited by Abbott.
The Rev. Frederick Douglass Haynes is senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.