Ronald Reagan, an actor, turned politician then 40th President of the United States, was well-liked by Americans even after his death in 2004, according to a Gallup Poll. However, the former president was infamous for his racist policies as governor of California and as president during the eighties.
In newly-released audiotapes from the National Archives, Ronald Reagan and former president Richard Nixon can be heard spewing racist rhetoric against United Nations (UN) delegates from Africa. The exposé was published on Tuesday by The Atlantic.
Listen to the clip below.
The phone conversation concerned the 1971 decision by the UN to recognize China’s communist government, instead of Taiwan- an ally of the United States. Reagan and Nixon were discussing the countries that voted against the United States. The banter shifted to the Tanzanian delegates who celebrated the vote by doing a celebratory dance in the chamber.
“To watch that thing on television, as I did, to see those, those monkeys from those African countries – damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” Reagan tells Nixon, who laughed heartily.
Ronald Reagan, as his predecessor Richard Nixon and many other American presidents, was a racist. However, unlike Nixon, whose presidency was considered to be a disgrace and a joke, he was beloved by white Americans. Under the guise of being amiable and telegenic, Reagan didn’t depict himself as an extreme bigot.
“If he said that 50 years ago, he shouldn’t have,” Melissa Giller, a spokeswoman for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute, said in a statement. “And he would be the first person to apologize.”
Because of Reagan’s congenial demeanor, it is relatively simple to dismiss him as racist.
His specious and symbolic practices of racial politics were outright cunning. Reagan’s systemic and ongoing assault on civil rights, affirmative action, and his anti-black war on drugs was insidious. Blacks, globally, including those affected by apartheid in South Africa, suffered as well during his presidency. Reagan’s decision regarding the 1983 invasion of Grenada and his social welfare policies which devastated America’s working poor were equally egregious. It was during his administration that “welfare queen” was popularized and Black women were targeted as the faces of the system.
Given today’s racial climate, Ronald Reagan would be considered benign compared to President Trump’s clamorous race-baiting administration. Nevertheless, the release of the audiotapes of Nixon and Reagan reiterate that American leaders, for the most part, have always been racist.