Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New on NewsReal - Do Haley Barbour's Racial Recollections Expose a Bad Memory, or Something Worse?

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

So common are accusations of racism from the Left that everyone with a right-of-center political disposition should expect to be accused of hating people with different skin colors at some point in his or her life. This week, it’s Haley Barbour’s turn. The Republican Governors’ Association chair is in hot water for comments that allegedly downplay racial strife in segregation-era Mississippi:
Both Mr. Mott and Mr. Kelly had told me that Yazoo City was perhaps the only municipality in Mississippi that managed to integrate the schools without violence. I asked Haley Barbour why he thought that was so.

“Because the business community wouldn’t stand for it,” he said. “You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you’d lose it. If you had a store, they’d see nobody shopped there. We didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.”

In interviews Barbour doesn’t have much to say about growing up in the midst of the civil rights revolution. “I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” he said. “I remember Martin Luther King came to town, in ’62. He spoke out at the old fairground and it was full of people, black and white.”
At the Daily Beast, Michelle Goldberg finds Barbour guilty of first-degree bigotry:
Writer Andrew Ferguson takes Barbour at his word, arguing that if Barbour’s segregationist roots become an issue in his presidential campaign, it will be because of “Washington political reporters who enjoy moralizing about race and public education while sending their own children to progressive schools like Sidwell Friends and St. Albans.”

The piece is an exquisite example of the conservative racial two-step: a blatant expression of racism, followed by aggrieved wailing at the mere thought of being called a racist. It proves that Barbour is either dishonest or so blindly ignorant that one can scarcely imagine how he’s managed a successful political career.
Of course, Goldberg has falsely smeared conservatives as racists before, undermining the idea that she’s accurately identified some common right-wing trope in the “conservative racial two-step.” But what of Barbour’s case?

Read the rest at NewsRealBlog.

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