It’s time to Break It Down!
Nearly two decades into the 21st Century, the phrase, “It’s not about race” is still nearly always a dead giveaway that, whatever the topic du jour, it is virtually always all about race. I’ll be the first to admit that is not the way it should be, or would be in a perfect world. Alas, we are not yet there.
Roughly two months ago, April 20, 2016, Treasury Secretary Jacob (Jack) Lew announced, in an open letter to the American people, that the newly redesigned $20 bill would feature abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the front. The $5 and $10 bills are also scheduled for redesign. The $10 note was due to be next in line, because of the need for security upgrades. However, as a result of an extensive 10-month survey and information gathering process, the Secretary was persuaded to leap over the less used $10 bill and move to the $20, a highly used bill that is a staple in ATM’s.
Secretary Lew’s determination to put Ms. Tubman on the next $20 bill was precipitated by an overwhelming response from Americans to a poll conducted by the grassroots group, Women on 20’s. Tubman was the first choice over three other contenders, including civil rights icon Rosa Parks, former First Lady and activist Eleanor Roosevelt, and Wilma Mankiller, the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation. About his decision, Lew said:
“I have been particularly struck by the many comments and reactions from children for whom Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure, but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy.”
Harriet Tubman was a great American shero. Her exploits as a freedom fighter are legendary. Quite naturally, she took her work most seriously. In framing the context in which she viewed the struggle, Tubman once said:
“I would fight for liberty so long as my strength lasted.”
Fight, she did. She fought to free slaves, and she fought for women’s suffrage. Secretary Lew gleaned through polling, cards and letters, and from his own research that Tubman’s story was one of courage and commitment to equality; one that embodied the ideals of democracy that our nation celebrates. Through placing her portrait on the obverse side of the $20 bill, we will honor her, and continue to value that legacy. The reverse side will still feature the White House and the image of President Andrew Jackson.
Lew noted that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing would work closely with the Federal Reserve to speed up work on the new currency. The goal is for all three bills to go into circulation as soon as possible, consistent with security requirements.
Well, that seems straight forward enough. Hold up, wait a minute! Just when it appeared that it was possible for the federal government to work smoothly and efficiently to execute the people’s business, we are slapped in the face with the all too familiar reality of an intransigent and obstructionist elected politician. Representative Steve King, Iowa, recently introduced an amendment to bar the Treasury Department from spending any funds to redesign paper money or coin currency.
If this amendment were enacted, the Treasury Department’s plans to replace the image of Andrew Jackson with that of Harriet Tubman on the face of the $20 bill would be scuttled. Representative King has not publicly expressed a reason for putting forward the amendment. His office did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
It is probably not news that Ms. Tubman would be the first African American to appear on American currency. While it is disappointing that Congressman King has decided, for reasons he has yet to see fit to share, to intervene and prevent the scheduled updating of our currency, despite existing security issues, I am also compelled to at least note the racial implications of his action.
Am I accusing Representative King of acting in a racist manner, or of having racist motivations? No, I am not. I am merely using my powers of observation, which I surely hope are not unique, and noting an apparent (at least to me) nexus between his action, and its evident impact. National media have reported news of his amendment. As such, while you may not have heard about it, the information is implanted in the public domain.
I noted in the very first sentence of this post, there is a propensity to throw a stone and hide one’s hand, when it comes to matters of race. But, as I stated then, the assertion that “it’s not about race,” is usually followed by a race-laden subject or discussion.
I will not deign to characterize the representative’s motives. Instead, what I will do is point out a few of the individuals and institutions that have gone on record as opposing the placement of Ms. Tubman’s image on the $20. An abbreviated list includes:
- Donald Trump
- Ben Carson
- Fox News
- Steve King
I’m sure there are others, maybe many, most, likely denizens of the GOP. For now, I will concentrate on those enumerated above. Each of them has invested considerable time, energy, and in the case of the three men, political capital, opposing any and everything even remotely associated with President Obama. Technically that does not include the Tubman initiative, since contrary to the opinion of the typical recalcitrant Obama hater; the decision-making regarding the currency was the purview of Secretary Lew, not President Obama. But, since Lew is an Obama appointee, I’ll play along and blame/credit the President for making the call. Whatever!
At this point, if I were engaged in a conversation about this matter, the other party or parties would be offering a litany of thinly veiled-to-totally transparent excuses attempting to defend the non-racial basis for this amendment. On a good day I would listen politely before dismissing the excrement as the half-baked crapola that it is. On a not-so-good day…well, let’s just hope it was a good day.
On this day, I’ve done my job. I have elevated the topic so that you may assess and evaluate for yourself. I leave you with this thought…”It’s Never About Race; Or Is It?”
I’m done; holla back!
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