DERRICK Z. JACKSON
Barbour campaign shows GOP's racist side
THE BIGGER the elephants, the more visible the underbelly of the Republican Party. Its stampede into Mississippi on behalf of gubernatorial candidate Haley Barbour continued this week with Vice President Dick Cheney telling 1,200 people, "We are proud to know your next governor, and we are proud of the campaign he has run: positive, hopeful, and optimistic."
This was Cheney's second appearance in the state for Barbour. At a June rally before 1,500 people, Cheney said Barbour's political and business experience "make him uniquely qualified to lead Mississippi."
President Bush is scheduled this Saturday to make his second trip in seven weeks to Mississippi. New York City's former mayor Rudolph Giuliani is scheduled to come to the state this week. The former Senate majority leader, Bob Dole; Senator Elizabeth Dole; the former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer; Florida's Governor Jeb Bush; Education Secretary Rod Paige; and former Oklahoma congressman J.C. Watts have all been there. They all hope they can help Barbour, the former Republican National Committee chairman, defeat incumbent Democrat Ronnie Musgrove next week. The latest state poll gives Barbour a small lead.
In the rush to trample Musgrove, the GOP is crushing its own toes. Barbour has blatantly appealed to the most racist elements in Mississippi by defiantly refusing to ask the Council of Conservative Citizens to remove his photograph from its website home page. The photo shows Barbour at a CCC-sponsored barbecue with five other men, including CCC field director Bill Lord.
The CCC grew out of the racist white citizens councils that fought integration during the civil rights movement. In yet another example of its hatred, the CCC home page features an article titled "The Racial Compact." The article proposes a South African-style apartheid in most of the United States reserved for the "Nordish-American population." African-Americans, who are referred to as "Congoid," would be shoved into what is now Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and north Texas. Latinos would be consigned to south Texas and New Mexico.
The article defends a concept of "moral racism" in which "Nordish racial salvation, saving the Nordish race from diminishment and destruction by racial intermixture and replacement, preventing the loss of more Nordish racial-genetic wealth, is a life and death matter of ultimate self-interest that exceeds all other considerations in importance."
Another article says that because of low African-American support for the California recall, it proves that "negroes should not even be labeled as being in the same `nation' as Whites, much less should they be given any voting rights to influence the conduct of government in that nation." The same article veers into an attack on career women, declaring "with thanks to liberal Jews like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan," women "have become foreigners in their own land." The article says women who pursue careers have succumbed to the "anti-Christian propaganda" and are "abandoning their God-created role." It said "Welcome to Amazon America, where we celebrate the castrating of the white male daily."
Barbour tried to play it both ways last week, saying merely that some of the CCC's views are "indefensible." Unfortunately, some African-Americans in the Republican Party, too timid to criticize the pandering, have afforded him some racial cover. But there is no defending in any way a group whose sole purpose is to glorify the most poisonous aspects of American history, from the traitorous Confederacy to calling immigrants of color "trash" to denunciations of Jewish Americans. Perhaps the problem is that it is unrealistic to expect Barbour to fully renounce the CCC if he has not fully renounced his own past. When he ran for the Senate in 1982, a New York Times report said:
"The racial sensitivity at Barbour headquarters was suggested by an exchange between the candidate and an aide who complained that there would be `coons' at a campaign stop at the state fair. Embarrassed that a reporter heard this, Mr. Barbour warned that if the aide persisted in racist remarks, he would be reincarnated as a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks."
Barbour's refusal to reject the CCC's use of his photo suddenly brings his own history back to life. It raises the question of how much he clings to it and how much he feels his white voters need to desperately hold on to a tragic past and a segregated future to feel good about themselves. If Barbour will not let go of the photo, it is up to the GOP to take it out of his hands. Otherwise it may win the Mississippi State House, but continue to lose the hearts of decent thinking Americans. The GOP will once again crush any hope or optimism that Americans can walk into a polling place without race being the silent lever in the voting booth.
Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.