Democratic leaders long stood in the doorways of schoolhouses and told black school children that we don’t want you in here to get the good education that our children are getting. Today, as many black students have become mired in urban schools that are often failing or deteriorating, Democrats are once again standing in the doorway, this time to keep black students from getting out.
Consider the situation in Washington, D. C., where 84 percent of the city’s students are black: despite the fact that nearly $13,500 is spent each year on every student in the District, D. C. schools currently rank among the worst of all schools in the nation. Congress therefore moved to help by providing a $7,500 voucher for low-income students trapped in failing schools – a voucher they could redeem to attend a better school – a school chosen by that student and his or her parents. When that congressional proposal came to a vote, ninety-nine percent of Democrats voted against that bill allowing students in failing schools to choose a better school – only one percent of Democrats in Congress supported vouchers and parental school choice in education, 289 even though nationally nearly 70 percent of African Americans with children support educational choice – a level of support well above that of the general population.
While Democrats once stood in the doorways of public schools and told black students, “We don’t want you in here,” they are again standing in the doorways of public schools, this time telling black students that they don’t want them out – that they want them to remain in failing schools. It appears that for a century-and-a-half, Democrats have often taken wrong positions on educational opportunity for black Americans.
Returning to the 19th century, in 1883, the U. S. Supreme Court – using the same abominable logic it displayed in the deplorable Dred Scott decision – struck down the 1875 civil rights laws that prohibited segregation and racial discrimination. Regrettably, it would be almost seventy years after this before the Supreme Court would relent and partially undo some of the painful effects of its pro-segregation decision by reinstating part of the intent of the Republican civil rights law of 1875.
Rep. John Roy Lynch, a Congressman from Mississippi mentioned earlier, had grown up as a slave until freed by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Within a decade, he had become Speaker of the House in Mississippi and later received presidential appointments from Republican Presidents Benjamin Harrison and William McKinley. Lynch was appointed an army officer during the Spanish-American War, earned a law degree, and was the Chairman of the Republican Party in Mississippi. He was a leader who served his State and nation well. Despite the serious racial problems of his day, Lynch’s love for his country was still very evident and reflected the patriotism still present among African Americans today:
I love the land that gave me birth; I love the Stars and Stripes. This country is where I intend to live – where I expect to die. To preserve the honor of the national flag and to maintain perpetually the Union of the States, hundreds – and I may say thousands – of noble, brave, and true-hearted colored men have fought, bled, and died. The Supreme Court prolonged segregation for a century by striking down early civil rights laws republican U. S. rep. john r. lynch.