ReMARCs: Who’s The Real George Wallace?

Opening ReMARCs

By Marc Morial

President & CEO, National Urban League

Last week, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal made some rather offensive remarks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), saying, “We’ve got Eric Holder and the Department of Justice trying to stand in the schoolhouse door to prevent minority kids, low-income kids, kids who haven’t had access to a great education, the chance to go to better schools.”

Sure, politicians sometimes reach for sensationalism during political gatherings – and it’s usually the more shocking comments that are covered and remembered.  But at some point, respect for our nation’s history – understanding the gravity of that moment – must overrule the desire for dramatic effect.

This comparison of Attorney General Eric Holder and the U.S. DOJ to segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace, who stood in the doorway of the University of Alabama to prevent two Black students from integrating the school, was over-the-top and has no place in a productive national discourse.  The issues at hand are the legal dispute between the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and Gov. Jindal over Louisiana’s school voucher program, which the DOJ questioned was a violation of prior desegregation orders, and Jindal’s disagreement with the Obama administration’s lack of support for voucher systems using public money to fund private schools.  The subject matter is substantive enough for meaningful and earnest discussion and debate.  It is unfortunate that the governor chose a politicized platform to spew inaccurate historical comparisons.

Gov. Jindal’s comments were also quite ironic – if not hypocritical – considering that many would suggest that he is the Wallace-like figure “standing in the hospital door” with his refusal to expand Medicaid in a state with one of the highest rates of uninsured and some of the nation’s worst healthcare outcomes as a result of nonexistent or poor access to quality care.

I’ve met the governor, and he seems like a nice man with an inoffensive personality, but his statements and his positions are offensive.  He undoubtedly needs a history lesson.  Let’s start with this one: Gov. Wallace eventually apologized for his “stand.”  Perhaps Gov. Jindal will soon do the same.