Sen. Bill Cassidy has made some bad decisions throughout his career. In the middle of a pandemic, his efforts to rob 23 million Americans of healthcare certainly seems foolish.
But that isn’t the only bad idea he’s championed.
In the early 1990s, Cassidy channeled his inner Bobby Jindal and suggested that we “do away with Southern University-New Orleans,” turning the spare buildings into, among other things, “minimum security prisons.”
Yes, Bill Cassidy said that but that’s not all he said in his revealing “letter to the editor” of the State Times.
“Does northwest Louisiana require Grambling, Louisiana Tech, Northwest Louisiana University, LSU-Shreveport, and Southern University-Shreveport? Make two of them junior colleges and close two more. Why stop there? Do away with Southern University-New Orleans,” Sen. Cassidy opined.
In a state that incarcerates more of its population than most developed countries, especially people of color, we need more institutions like Southern University in New Orleans, not fewer.
Starting with Straight University in 1868 and on to Dillard, Southern, Grambling, and Xavier, Louisiana’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) boast a proud legacy of achievement.
They’ve produced distinguished politicians, military leaders, New York Times columnists, world-renowned musicians, artists, and poets. They have prepared generations of young African-American men and women for success, increasing the earning potential of their graduates by 55 percent.
In a state that incarcerates more of its population than most developed countries, especially people of color, we need more institutions like Southern University in New Orleans, not fewer. And we definitely do not need more prisons.
Truthfully, much of Cassidy’s thinking is infused with racial undertones.
His crusade against the Affordable Care Act, for example, is informed by his belief that Medicaid is a barrier to self-improvement, rather than a pathway to self-care and personal development. He even praised a documentary that compared the Affordable Care Act to slavery.
And while Cassidy was playing politics with the pandemic, African-Americans in Louisiana were dying at an alarming rate. He regurgitated Republican talking points that minimized the virus to increase the odds of Trump winning re-election, which infuriates me as a COVID survivor.
Weeks after Cassidy said, “The only thing we have to fear is the fear of the virus itself,” I laid in a hospital bed fighting for my life.
To make matters worse, Cassidy dismissed concerns that systemic inequalities in our healthcare system led to the disproportionate death toll and instead seemed to suggest that African American genetics were to blame. This callous response is especially disappointing coming from a physician who worked in Louisiana’s charity hospitals for years.
Finally, Sen. Cassidy tried to strip healthcare from Louisiana’s most vulnerable citizens, politicized the pandemic, and minimized the suffering of African Americans. The fact is, whether it is taking away our pathway to higher education or our access to healthcare, Bill Cassidy has a history of putting African American Louisianans last.
Ted James is a native of Baton Rouge, a practicing attorney, and a graduate of Southern University, Louisiana’s largest HBCU. In late March 2020, James, then 37, was hospitalized and nearly lost his life from COVID-19. He is currently serving his third term in the Louisiana state House, representing District 101 in East Baton Rouge Parish.