Unearthed Tapes Record Reagan Calling African Delegates ‘Those Monkeys’
The days of politicians spewing racist banter “behind closed doors” are long over. For one, our President of the United States is publicly calling on Congresswoman of color to “go back” to where they came from and even allowing for thirteen uncomfortable seconds of rally-goers shouting “send her back.” For another, the Internet has allowed the public to hear otherwise private comments that the POTUS doesn’t want immigrants from “shithole countries.”
Last August, an October 1971 portion of tape recording President Richard Nixon chatting with then-California Governor Ronald Reagan was released. In it, we hear the most influential political leaders in the world laugh at the expense of African delegates and African-Americans.
Ronald Reagan apparently called Richard Nixon to vent his frustration at the way African delegates voted to recognize the People’s Republic of China.
“Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did,” Reagan told Nixon. “To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them,” Reagan said. “They’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!” Nixon replied with a booming laugh.
Reagan reportedly hated the United Nations and described it as a “kangaroo court” filled with “bums.”
That day in October, the UN voted to seat a delegation from Beijing instead of from Taiwan. Reagan preferred Taiwan and was enraged when the Tanzanian delegates started dancing in celebration of the news. Reagan called Nixon that very night but Nixon was asleep. They spoke the next morning, when the tape was recorded, and when Reagan pressed Nixon to back out of the United Nations.
Right after talking with Reagan, Nixon called Secretary of State William Rogers and called the African delegates “cannibals.”
In Nixon’s retelling of Reagan’s language to Rogers, he struggles not to sound racist. He fails. “As you can imagine, there’s strong feeling that we just shouldn’t, as [Reagan] said, he saw these, as he said, he saw these—these, uh, these cannibals on television last night,” Nixon tells Rogers. “And [Reagan] says, ‘Christ, they weren’t even wearing shoes, and here the United States is going to submit its fate to that,’ and so forth and so on.”
Then, hours later, Nixon called Rogers again to vent, using Reagan’s racism as permission to repeat it, “I found out what outraged him [Reagan], and I find this is typical of a lot of people: They saw it on television and, he said, ‘These cannibals jumping up and down and all that.’ And apparently, it was a pretty grotesque picture. He practically got sick at his stomach, and that’s why he called. And he said, ‘It was a terrible scene.’ And that sort of thing will have an emotional effect on people … as [Reagan] said, ‘This bunch of people who don’t even wear shoes yet, to be kicking the United States in the teeth’ … It was a terrible thing, they thought.”
Nixon recorded their conversation, but the racist portion was withheld from the public to “protect Reagan’s privacy.”
The National Archives had released this conversation in 2000 originally but intentionally struck the racist parts from the public record. When Reagan died in 2004, his privacy could be legally dismissed as terms for keeping the conversation from the public. Tim Naftali, a researcher at the National Archives, requested the conversations be reviewed once again. It was released to the public two weeks ago.
But Nixon never kept his racism private.
In an interview, Nixon announced that he believes Richard Hernstein and Arthur Jensen’s conclusions that IQ is tied to race–that there is a biological racial hierarchy that codifies white supremacy. He saw whites and Asians as much higher on the totem pole than Africans and Latinos. This wasn’t racism to him. It was a fact.
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