The NAACP and Every Child Matters organized a forum Sunday during which the gubernatorial candidates discussed issues important to our state's African-American community, a community that comprises approximately 33.1% of the state's population. Everyone, it seemed, was in attendance, thereby rendering Bobby Jindal's absence all the more conspicuous.
Jindal’s decision to snub the NAACP is somewhat surprising, for newspaper article after newspaper article touts the unprecedented support Jindal enjoys in the African-American community. African-Americans, reporters gush, consider Jindal a viable option, but the interviews these panegyrists for Jindal cite contradict their articles’ theses: potential support for Jindal is briefly metioned, but it is immediately qualified by the reservations voters have about the Republican when probed about the vote they will actually cast on Saturday. Perhaps reporters should undertake an investigation into the reasons why such reservations exist. For if they did, they would discover how Jindal and the Republican apparatus that supports him are attempting to dupe and manipulate this very powerful block of voters, a block of voters Jindal and his handlers have every reason to fear.
So Jindal skips a forum jointly coordinated by the NAACP and Every Child Matters. Perhaps one should not be surprised, for Jindal has always been absent whenever the NAACP assumes a position on legislation considered in Congress. 35% is the grade Jindal was awarded by the NAACP for the votes he cast during 2005 and 2006. 35%: not only is it a failing grade, an F; it is a sign of Jindal’s complete and utter lack of regard for any piece of legislation the NAACP and the African-American community deems important.
One bill the NAACP supported is the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, an Act Jindal actively opposed. Here is the NAACP’s summary of the bill:
This legislation would expand existing hate crime prevention laws and allow the federal government to assist the local authorities in the investigation and prosecution of crimes motivated by hate, regardless of what the victim was doing at the time the crime occurred. It would also expand the definition of a hate crime to include those motivated by the victim’s disability, gender or sexual orientation and it would provide money to states to develop hate crime prevention programs.
In short, this proposed hate crimes prevention legislation would allow the federal government to work with state and local authorities to punish hate crimes to the fullest extent possible. While the NAACP believes that states should continue to play the primary role in the prosecution of hate crime violence, a federal law is needed to compliment state statutes and assist the states in securing the very complicated and expensive cases through prosecution.
The importance of such legislation in the wake of all the horrible events that transpired in Jena cannot be emphasized enough. One also cannot ignore the importance of such legislation when one considers the lack of funds to which those who pursue prosecution of hate crimes have access. According to the language of the bill against which Jindal voted, federal grants in the amount of $5 million in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 would assist local law enforcement agencies in the prosecution of violent hate crimes. But more importantly, coordination between the federal government and local and state officials would ensure that hate crimes are reported as such.
A cursory review of the chart of reported hate crimes at the US Department of Justice’s website reveals how Louisiana as a whole reports less incidents than states with similar populations. We know these crimes occur, but they are never documented. The legislation against which Jindal voted would ensure that those who perpetrate hate crimes and other forms of racially motivated intimidation would finally be held accountable in a court of law. Apparently Jindal does not view the prosecution of hate crimes as a priority, even if 33.1% of the state he desires to represent as Governor live with the fear that they may be the next target of racially motivated violence.
The vote Jindal cast in 2007 is not an isolated occurrence. Indeed, he voted against a similar proposal in 2005, a proposal John Conyers (D-MI) submitted as an amendment to the Children’s Safety Act of 2005. Although the NAACP and 30 House Republicans supported John Conyers’s amendment, Jindal cast a vote against it, once again demonstrating either an inability or an unwillingness to confront and address the reality of racially motivated violence and other forms of intimidation experienced by African-Americans on an all too regular basis.
Jindal’s inability or unwillingness to come to terms with the reality of racially motivated hate crimes against the African-American community also surfaced during the gubernatorial debate sponsored by Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the Council for A Better Louisiana. When asked about his plans to address and prevent problems such as those culminating in the Jena 6 by Robin Eckings, Jindal responded with nothing but unrelated bilge. I quote from minutes 11 and 12 of the video posted at We Saw That:
You know, the first thing I want to make very clear is that the entire country is watching Louisiana. They need to know that we are united as a people. There is more that binds us together than separates us. We are not separated: North, South Louisiana; black or white. This is a great state and a great country. No state in America is perfect, but this is a great state where we’re united.
Now in terms of answering the question: what can I do as Governor? I compare the tension that the Jena, that the Jena Six case has brought to Louisiana, the same way that Katrina and Rita brought attention to Louisiana as well. We need to make sure in responding to that attention that we take this as an advantage, as an opportunity, to take advantage of this, to actually address some of the underlying issues. Let’s not just address the surface symptoms: in other words, every child in Louisiana deserves access to high quality health care and a good education. The real, the real challenge for our children: too many of them grow up in poverty, one of the highest poverty rates in America. Too many of our children are suffering from preventable health care impacts; we’ve got one of the highest infant mortality rates, low birth rates. And so I think this is an opportunity for us to make sure that our children have access to affordable, high quality education, every child is getting a great education. Let’s make sure they have every opportunity to pursue their dreams and succeed. Let’s not just stop at the surface; just like the storms, there were real challenges before the storms. I think this case reveals real challenges but also a real opportunity to address those challenges in Louisiana for all of our children.
While other candidates proposed the creation of a Multicultural Task Force or an outreach program to prevent events similar those surrounding the Jena 6, Bobby Jindal dodged the question and rattled on about how everyone is unified. But when he finally attempted to answer the question, he diminished the events involving the Jena 6 by relegating them to a place he calls “the surface.” According to Jindal, the pain and suffering endured by those who are the victims of hate crimes and egregious miscarriages of justice are unworthy of consideration. Besides, these children lived in poverty, and they did not have health care or access to what Jindal calls a quality education. Victims are blamed, and no solutions are proposed.
Welcome to Jindal’s reality; welcome to Jindal’s absence from any substantive discussion about issues important to the African-American community; welcome to a world where African-Americans are invisible: no wonder why African-Americans are chary of casting a vote for the callous Republican who refuses to come to terms with the realities of race relations and hate crimes in Louisiana. Reporters at the Times-Picayune can try all they want to manufacture African-American support for the candidate their Editorial Board has endorsed. A record exists, however. And once the disturbing pattern of Jindal’s record on race becomes public knowledge, the false consensus the venal newspapers are attempting to create in the African-American community on Jindal’s behalf will begin to crumble. For no one enjoys being bamboozled.