Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's Haley Barbour, Y'all! : Half-Governor, Half-Presidential Candidate, All-Racist

I keep thinking that somewhere along the way certain political folks in the Old South and other places will finally get it. What is the "it" I refer to?  Nothing less than the original sin of the United States--racism.

They need to get that it was a bad time in America when racism was institutionalized. That you can't sugar-coat that.  Can't pretend it wasn't hurtful and degrading and viscous and plain wrong on all levels.   

I keep thinking that the strained and pretzel-twisted il-logic of trying to minimize the brutal fact of slavery and later segregation will sink in for all major elected officials who happen to be white-skinned.  But, somehow, every few months somebody prominent makes an ass of himself and this causes me to seriously question how people can continue to think and speak like bigots like its still Jim Crow Days down South and nothing has changed in race relations. 

(to right: Barbour the Not-So Magnificent!)  

Is it some cultural blindness that effects people like Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi?  Read this short portion of a blog in today's "New York Times" and tell me "does this sound like an elected official in 2010"?     The original remarks about the governor's home town of Yazoo City were made to a reporter (Andrew Freguson)  from Britain's "Weekly Standard".  

  "In the magazine’s profile of the second-term governor, Mr. Barbour suggests that the 1960s — when people lost life and limb battling for equal rights for black citizens — were not a terribly big deal in Yazoo City. “I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” he said. He heard Dr. King speak at the county fairgrounds in 1962 but can’t remember the speech. “We just sat on our cars, watching the girls, talking, doing what boys do,” he said. “We paid more attention to the girls than to King.”

Proving I suppose that the sex instinct in young Haley overrode the justice instinct. Not exactly Mr. Empathy is he?  Sure racism wasn't that bad, Haley.  For you!

"And the Citizens Councils were simply right-minded business leaders trying to achieve integration without violence. Thanks to the councils, he said, “we didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.”

The truth was of course that the "Citizen's Councils" were every bit on the same wave-length as the Klu Klux Klan. To pretend otherwise is to distort history. To show their true colors, here is some background and an example of what The Citizen's Councils were publishing in 1960 (courtesy of the Jackson, Tennessee Newspaper "The Sun", website.) 


The White Citizens' Council was born in Greenwood, Miss., shortly after the 1954-55 Brown vs. Board of Education decisions were rendered. Sister branches rapidly surfaced throughout Mississippi and other Southern states.

Leading citizens joined. The goal was to maintain segregation.

Tennessee's relatively ineffective version of the citizens' council was called the Tennessee Federation for Constitutional Government, of which Madison County had a chapter. The group placed advertisements in The Sun in the 1960s in support of segregation. One was an editorial from another newspaper that said, "The Negro today is the best treated human being in the United States."

The Madison chapter also held at least one meeting covered by The Sun. According to the story, a Memphis attorney called for prosecuting Jackson's bus company for integrating its buses and called the 1954 school desegregation by the U.S. Supreme Court "a judicial monstrosity."

At the same meeting, according to the article, District Attorney David P. Murray called on the audience to "help maintain our Southern way of life" and added, "Let's fight for it to the bitter end." According to The Sun's story, 200 people attended the meeting, including a circuit judge, an American Legion commander and the sheriff of Haywood County.

Citizens' councils used economic and political pressure to achieve their ends. The election of Ross Barnett as governor of Mississippi, on the promise of defending the state's traditions - which meant white supremacy - was one display of the council's success.

Below are excerpts from a pamphlet from the Association of Citizens' Councils titled "Why Does Your Community Need a Citizens' Council?":

"Maybe your community has had no racial problems! This may be true; however, you may not have a fire, yet you maintain a fire department. You can depend on one thing: The NAACP (National Association for the Agitation of Colored People), aided by alien influences, bloc vote seeking politicians and left-wing do-gooders, will see that you have a problem in the near future.

"The Citizens' Council is the South's answer to the mongrelizers. We will not be integrated. We are proud of our white blood and our white heritage of sixty centuries.

... We are certainly not ashamed of our traditions, our conservative beliefs, nor our segregated way of life."

Sources: The Jackson Sun; "History of the Modern Civil Rights Movement;" The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture




Speaking for myself, as just another member of the mongrel breed  of North American cur, I should state in fairness that Mr. Barbour has gone to his website to apologize for his remarks.  But the fact that he made them in the first place, and the fact that he holds a high position within a major political party, says a lot about how far we still have to go as a nation.

Make no mistake: I am NOT singling out whites in the state of Mississippi or the Old South for that matter. Racism is still coiled up like a rattlesnake in every state in the Union.  But I sincerely hope that the Republican voters of the 2012 Primaries lose this guy in the weeds someplace.

But I'm not sure:  many GOP voters had parents and grandparents who were Democrats before men like Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young and women like Rosa Parks organized the groundwork that led to the modern Civil Rights Era.  Then they became Republicans, feeling that their ultra-conservative traditions were going to be taken away, as if granting rights to another group diminished theirs. It's tortured logic, of course, but some people were willing to kill for it.  

This is America's great sin, North and South, Republican and Democrat.  And that sin lives on, if not in the law at least in the spirit of many hearts and minds. 


 Otherwise how could Haley Barbour ever have gone as far as he has?  


  1. In case someone wants to see "Haley of Yazoo City"on the campaign stump, here he is from last month:

  2. I'm telling you, we STILL can't cure STUPID!!! Why do people think they can say things like this, then just apologise? I mean, REALLY???
    Geez Louise......!

  3. It does boggle the mind, Jacquie. Stupid is as stupid does, as someone once said. And medical science is decades behind a cure for it I'm afraid.

  4. What is that white thing hanging in front of his crotch in the video?

  5. I'll bet no one else noticed that! The one in the middle looks like...um...yeck.
    They're all three part of the podium, but the middle one sticks right out. I went back to look.
    You're funny!

  6. I thought maybe it was some kind of joke or something but I guess it is more of a camera error. And yes, I would notice that.

  7. The apology is worthless, it's a stupid gesture. But he's too stupid to see his transparency.

    No, you can't cure stupid, but stupid can, when they have the 'authority' do some very harmful things.

    Kyl, McConnell, & McCain come to mind as harmful people. Hm. Are they stupid, or just serving their self interests?

  8. STUPID STUPID STUPID--what I don't understand is he has a followint ugh

  9. Summed up better than a lot of paid-pundits, Doug.

    Good work!

  10. Thankfully that's all it was, Mary Ellen.

  11. I'm going with the "self-interests" on most of these folks, Lucija, although Barbour might be stupid. On the other hand, he's smart enough to maneuver into power so maybe he needs stupid enablers.

  12. God what an ugly bugger this one is Doug.... Haley is a girl's name here in UK....you wouldn't want your daughter ending up looking like this guy though would you Doug?

    Nightmare City or what?

  13. It seems to me that racism crosses political divides so that protestant Republicans like Ron Paul carries the gene that contaminates most political discourses in America probably more openly and blatantly than anywhere else in the English speaking world....and I suspect most of the non-English speaking world as well.

    Race in America means something different to race in Europe I think.

    Here racial and cultural diversity (which incidentally I welcome and celebrate myself) results from an implosion of colonialism coming home to roost in the Motherland... whereas America represents the explosion of colonialism, a continent founded on principles of imperial struggle and which has never known anything else since the New World was first discovered and divided up by the European metropolitan powers.

  14. Haha! I agree there, AA.

    Nearly as ugly as the historical revisionism he failed to put across about Yazoo City and the Deep South of the 1950's and 60's.

    Shame that the beautiful Haley Mills, my first childhood crush in the movies, has to share a name with the likes of that dude.

    The most recent thing I found out about Gov. Barbour was that his children attended an all-white private school in Mississippi (which accepted black students only in 1996) and that he has continued to appear in fund raisers for all white-schools run by the modern "Citizens Council" groups--as late as 2003!

    A President Barbour would quite literally be a nightmare.

  15. That is very well put, AA ,and that violent past makes all the harder to uproot the idea that America could ever be anything near post-racial society. Rising Hispanic populations in California upset some white Protestant groups, but many people forget that many Hispanic families are long-time citizens and "aliens" have always been welcomed to this country for centuries when there were world wars to fight or non-union work to be done that involved getting one's hands dirty. And are borders are the stuff of war and confiscation of territory by fiat against the real Native Americans.

    Economic downturns, of course, always exascerbate these problems.