Shallow: Actions matter more than proclamations

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 18, 2010

The increasing shallowness of the media was on display again last week in the tit-for-tat rehash of whether gubernatorial proclamations dealing with Confederate heritage were inappropriate for not including words recalling the horrors of human bondage.

Appearing on CNN for other purposes, Mississippi’s Haley Barbour got sucked into the vortex. When asked about the apology by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell offered for the omission, Barbour said the controversy didn’t “amount to diddly.” Then Barbour said, “I don’t know what you would say about slavery, but anybody that thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing, I think that goes without saying.”

Great effort was put forth in the aftermath to tek-tsk Barbour for showing grave insensitivity to the plight of black Americans or an indifference to history. Leaders of various organizations were called on to intone their concerns over Barbour giving the topic short shrift. The back and forth went on for days.

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One problem with elevating such comments to prominence is that it trivializes the efforts of those who struggled to end slavery 150 years ago and, more recently, struggled to close the door on the Jim Crow era.

Another is that Americans — red and yellow, black and white — need to know how McConnell, Barbour and all other elected officials are gauging the challenges people face today and what actions they propose. Spending time dissecting their phrases for hidden agendas or pretexts is not relevant. What they’re doing is. Examine their records. Anything there reflecting a discriminatory intent, purpose or effect? If so, report the story.

Proclamations are a fact of daily life for every mayor and governor in America. They sign thousands. So what’s next for the press? The governor of Idaho has proclaimed National Potato Week! Doesn’t he know that french fries are a leading cause of childhood obesity?