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Republicans will never pass up an opportunity to recast themselves as the party of civil rights. It is an irony of life for black Americans that the very people who oppress them the most, are the first to use them to establish their compassion and caring credentials.

The Senate will pass a resolution apologizing for its predecessors’ support of lynch law in the United States. Nearly 5,000 lynchings of African Americans were documented between the 1870s and 1960s. If 5,000 are documented many more took place that were not.

For decades southern Democrats, Dixiecrats, filibustered every effort to pass anti-lynching legislation in the Senate. Today white southern politicians are almost all Republicans. The party labels shouldn’t cause any confusion. Yesterday’s Dixiecrat is today’s southern Republican.

George Allen is a Republican Senator from Virginia. Allen has joined one of the few white Democratic politicians left in the south, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, in passing a resolution apologizing for the Senate’s refusal to stop the murder of thousands of Americans at the hands of their neighbors.

Doria Dee Johnson, Anthony Crawford’s great-great granddaughter will be present to hear the apology. Not only was Anthony Crawford murdered for the crime of arguing over the price of his cotton, but his family and most other black families were driven out of Abbeville, South Carolina, where he was lynched by a mob that numbered between 200 and 400 persons. Crawford said he was willing to die if he was struck by a white man, instead he died for merely arguing with one.

Senator Allen wants to be president of the United States, a fact that explains his new zeal to right the wrongs of the past. It is a new role for Allen to play. When he served as Governor of Virginia, Allen called the NAACP an “extremist organization,” proclaimed the month of April Confederate History and Heritage Month and kept a confederate flag in his living room. When asked why he flew a confederate flag in his home he replied, "It was never flying. It was nailed to a wall."

Allen, like the current Republican president, is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. His father, also named George Allen, was coach of the Washington Redskins football team. Allen can’t seem to overcome that part of his heritage. He speaks endlessly in football metaphors, so much so that it is unclear what language he speaks.

He does not speak English. I mean that almost literally, in that he does not construct sentences made up of commonplace English words. Rather, he speaks entirely in a patois constructed of football metaphors.

Allen has referred to primaries as "intrasquad scrimmages," his staffers are the "A-team," he calls Senate recesses "halftime" and opponents commit the sin of "pass interference." This simple-minded boosterism appeals to millions of Americans. If he doesn’t realize his presidential ambitions it will not be because of his inarticulate babble.

Whether he becomes president or not, Allen should not be allowed to cynically claim regret for the American terrorism practiced by people he also claims to admire. If there is any doubt about Allen’s true feelings, the existence of a noose hanging from a tree in his office ought to dispel any doubt. The apology for lynching will be delivered by an apologist for

When asked about the noose Allen claimed that it was just memorabilia symbolizing his admiration for “frontier justice.” Someone needs to point out to the good Senator that frontier justice caused the gruesome murders of so many thousands.

It was clear that something was up when the same person who proclaimed Confederate Heritage Month started hanging out with Congressman John Lewis at the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama. Clearly a conversion was afoot.

When Allen begins his run for the White House in 2008 the noose and the Confederate flag should be remembered more than any opportunistic apology for lynching. It must also be remembered that this so-called apology is an attack on the filibuster itself. The filibuster is the one tool remaining that gives the powerless Democrats a voice in the Senate.

Suddenly Republicans used their predecessors shameful support of lynching as a rational to end the filibuster. It never occurred to them to apologize before they needed to kick the Democrats when they were already down.

The desire for acknowledgements of injustice is universal among peoples who have had no redress for wrongs committed against them. In recent years appeals have been made for apologies not only for American slavery and lynchings but also for the Irish potato famine, the Japanese army’s rape of Nanking, China and numerous other examples of humanity’s ability to inflict cruelty on their fellow humans whenever they see fit.

The request for an apology is always followed by wails of consternation from the descendants of the evildoers. They complain that the wrong occurred a long time ago, that they had nothing to do with it, or that other groups were just as evil.

Allen couldn’t use legitimate requests for justice to further his political career and ulterior motives if we just said no thank you to apologies from people who are at the very least insincere. If Allen is serious about making amends let him propose legislation to compensate the families of lynching victims. He could start with Anthony Crawford’s descendants. He might also make police brutality, the modern day successor to lynching, a federal offense.

A man who can’t express himself without using sports metaphors will never do any of those things. So when he stands on the floor of the Senate and apologizes for Senate complicity in murder, those of us who are truly interested in remembering should think of the Anthony Crawfords of this nation and ignore George Allen and his ilk.

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BC. Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City.  She can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected]. You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at


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June 16 2005
Issue 142

is published every Thursday.

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