Former President Ronald Reagan made it his mission to vilify welfare and he did it at the expense of Black women living in poverty. His shtick about a “welfare queen” has become a part of this nation’s political lore. Journalists couldn’t find her. Liberals claimed that she didn’t exist.
But she did.
According to an in-depth report by Slate’s Josh Levin, Linda Taylor had dozens of aliases and a rap-sheet longer than an arm; but she wasn’t Black. She was White.
Listen to Reagan speak about Taylor below:
Read more from Slate:
As of 1976, Taylor had yet to be convicted of anything. She was facing charges that she’d bilked the government out of $8,000 using four aliases. When the welfare queen stood trial the next year, reporters packed the courtroom. Rather than try to win sympathy, Taylor seemed to enjoy playing the scofflaw. As witnesses described her brazen pilfering from public coffers, she remained impassive, an unrepentant defendant bedecked in expensive clothes and oversize hats.
Born Martha Miller, she was listed as white in the 1930 Census, just like everyone else in her family. But she had darker skin and darker hair. People who knew her family told Levin that she had Native American ancestry. One of her husbands, who was black, said she could look like an Asian woman at times. Another earlier husband and ostensible father to some of her children was white, and during that marriage she gave birth to kids who alternately appeared black, unmistakably white, or racially ambiguous. At times she posed as a Jewish woman. In one photo, she has long, blonde hair.
She was white according to official records and in the view of certain family members who couldn’t imagine it any other way. She was black (or colored, or a Negro) when it suited her needs, or when someone saw a woman they didn’t think, or didn’t want to think, could possibly be Caucasian.
It is a known fact that there are more White people on welfare than Black people. Though the percentage of Black people on welfare is larger, the lion’s share of government funds goes to White America — both corporate and personal.
Now, that we know that the face of the most infamous ‘welfare queen’ in the nation is White, maybe the racial narrative will finally begin to change.
Read Taylor’s fascinating story at Slate.