by Max Brantley
Arkansas GOP Chairman Doyle Webb has released the following statement on the celebration of Juneteenth:
“Today we celebrate Juneteenth, marking the final abolition of slavery in Texas and the nation in 1865. The freedom and emancipation that this day represents is cause for great celebration among all Arkansans. The abolition of slavery marked an important milestone in the process of forming a more perfect union, and this anniversary is a great opportunity for all of us to renew our commitment to standing for justice and equality.”
Justice and equality. Are they embodied in opposition to affirmative action? Opposition to immigration reform? Opposition to women's medical rights? Opposition to equal treatment of gay people in the workplace? Opposition to universal health care? Opposition to equal access to state contracts for all legitimate nonprofit agencies?
But why look a gift horse in the mouth. The Republican Party's opposition to slavery is nonetheless welcome, given some of the people Webb and the party have promoted for public office as recently as the last election. Gone, but not forgotten:
"If slavery were so God-awful, why didn’t Jesus or Paul condemn it, why was it in the Constitution and why wasn’t there a war before 1861?" — former Republican Rep. Loy Mauch.
“Wouldn’t life for blacks in America today be more enjoyable and successful if they would only learn to appreciate the value of a good education?” — former Republican state Rep. Jon Hubbard.
But speaking of Juneteenth, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center has a Juneteenth observation at 6 p.m. Thursday at the center, which chronicles the black experience in Arkansas. The 2nd Infantry Regiment of United States Colored Troops Re-enactment Unit — including men, women and children in civil war era dress — will "guide visitors on a journey back in time."
And here's something I KNOW Doyle Webb will want to attend. At 7 p.m. Thursday at the center, Denver sculptor Ed Dwight will be talking about his "Inauguration of Hope," life-sized bronze statues inspired by the 2008 inauguration of Barack Obama. If Doyle can't make the talk, he can get by the center through June 30 to admire the sculptures.
PS — Isn't today also the day hearings were held to impose voter ID rules that will make it harder for many poor people — and thus many minorities — to vote. This type of legislation has been found constitutionally suspect elsewhere, but Arkansas Republicans had it as No. 1 agenda item in 2013 because they want to hold down black voter participation with something that amounts to a back-door poll tax.