good or for bad, you’re judged by the company you keep,
and that goes for the Republican Party and anyone else.
But when the GOP is accused of cozying up to hate groups,
they don’t seem to distance themselves from the alleged
affiliations, they embrace them. Sometimes Republicans
go out of their way to demonstrate their approval of racist
and homophobic organizations that we should all find objectionable.
Case in point: Haley
Barbour, the Governor of Mississippi. Of the civil
rights era, he said “I just don’t remember it as being that
bad,” he told the Weekly Standard. “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.” In Barbour’s
world, the races lived side by side during Jim Crow segregation,
and the White Citizens’ Council—known to many as the white
collar Klan— was a force for good in his hometown of Yazoo
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.
The reality of these councils was far different, as neo-confederate
expert Edward Sebesta documents in his Citizens’ Council newspaper historical
website. The councils were established as a direct response
to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision,
to resist desegregation and maintain white supremacy in
the South. An article in the October 1955 edition of The
Citizens’ Council entitled, “Mississippi Citizens’ Councils
Are Protecting Both Races” had this to say:
Citizens’ Councils, 60,000 strong
and growing fast, are mobilizing Mississippi to guard
both whites and Negroes.
Their aim is to preserve separation
of the races against assaults form the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People, in alliance with
the federal government. At the same time, they are dedicated
to protect the rank and file of Negroes from the wrath
of ruffian white people who may resort to violence.
And in an article called “Texans Will Fight To Preserve Segregation”:
There’s a rainbow of hope in the
dark “integration” sky in Texas.
The courageous spirit of manhood
which had been somewhat dulled by more than twenty years
of imported propaganda, brought into this country by way
of Washington, is re-asserting itself and definite steps
are being taken to counter the worst blow directed against
the South since the Civil War.
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling,
which applied only to certain Negro children in Virginia,
South Carolina, Delaware, Kansas and the District of Columbia,
the NAACP, composed partly of Negroes but mostly of rich
white trash, saw a chance to put a fast one over. They
gave the South the rush act, with their attorneys and
representatives spilling out into each State and insisting
that de-segregation was now the law of the land. They
were about to get by with it when the people of Texas,
as well as its officials waked up and went into action.
The people of Texas, like those of
the Deep South, have always been extremely fond of good
Negroes….But in the final analysis and when the chips
are down, they just don’t go much for arrogant Mullatoes
who come barging into the State from out of the East making
threats…before rolling away in long black Cadillacs.…
While the matter is far from settled,
it is now clear that Texas, along with other States in
the South, will exhaust every legal resource available
in resisting the attempt of a Marxist-conscious Supreme
Court to bring about mongrelization of the white race
by judicial ruling.
And a pamphlet
from the Association of Citizens' Councils titled “Why Does
Your Community Need a Citizens' Council?” referred to the
NAACP as the “National Association for the Agitation of
Colored People.” “We will not be integrated. We are proud
of our white blood and our white heritage of sixty centuries,’
said the pamphlet. “We are certainly not ashamed of our
traditions, our conservative beliefs, nor our segregated
way of life.”
Barbour seemed to backtrack
from his comments praising the racist group, which is akin
to getting a bucket of water after you just committed arson.
After praising the Councils, he said the groups were “indefensible”
and called segregation “a difficult and painful era for
Meanwhile, the GOP standard-bearers are taking sides in the
latest battle between the Southern Poverty Law Center and
the Family Research Council. The SPLC, a civil rights group
based in Montgomery, Alabama, released a report
called 18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda. One of
the groups named in the report is the Family Research Council,
which is described by SPLC as a font of anti-gay propaganda
that calls for the criminalization of homosexuality, and
pushes false accusations linking gays to pedophilia. Tony
Perkins, a former Louisiana state representative and the
head of FRC, once paid $82,500 to use the mailing list of
former Klan chieftain David Duke. Moreover, in 2001 Perkins
gave a speech to the Council of Conservative Citizens, a
white supremacist group that is the ideological heir to
the White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and 1960s.
FRC is fighting back with a “Start
Debating, Stop Hating” campaign. Not surprisingly,
the Republican Party leaders are siding with the hate group.
In a full-page ad in Politico and the Washington Examiner,
FRC calls SPLC a “liberal fundraising machine.” The ad
also accuses the civil rights group of character assassination,
and attacking groups that “uphold Judeo-Christian moral
views, including marriage as the union of a man and a woman.”
Among the 150 conservative leaders—including 22 members
of Congress— who signed the letter are Rep. Eric Cantor
(R-VA), Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Rep. John Boehner (R-OH),
Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), Sen, Jim DeMint (R-SC), Gov.
Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Rep. Steve King (R-IA), and Virginia
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. “It was a remarkable performance,
given that it was precisely the maligning of entire groups
of people — gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered
people — that caused the SPLC to list groups like the FRC,”
on its blog.
This comes as civil rights groups push for a federal review
changes made by the Republican-owned Texas Board of
Education, including the removal of people of color in the
textbooks, the watering down of the civil rights movement,
and teaching slavery, Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy
in a positive light. The groups claim the board is discriminating
against black and Latino students, and failing to provide
equal educational opportunities to these students.
Here’s the deal: The GOP cannot have it both ways. They
cannot take a stand in favor of hate groups—white supremacists,
neo-confederates, and homophobes— and take offense when
their critics call them out for it. Moreover, they cannot
rewrite history and attack civil rights. Since the Goldwater
presidential campaign and Nixon’s Southern Strategy, the
Republicans made a deal with the Devil. And the Devil’s
in the details. Appealing to disaffected Southern whites
on states’ rights and skin-color solidarity, the GOP became
the Dixiecrats. Tax cuts became code word for the N-word,
because it was understood that blacks would get hurt worse
than whites, as Southern Strategy architect Lee
Atwater bluntly noted.
On one level, the Republican Party would whitewash the image
of their base, not to mention America’s racially-charged
past and their role in it. And yet, on another level, they
are so extreme that they embrace their intolerance with
no shame. The GOP embraces the white-Christian-nationalist
spirit of the White Citizens’ Councils. They present themselves
as the protectors of society from the enemy, the “other”
who threatens to destroy white Christian values—whether
Latino immigrants, Muslims, or gay marriage. We saw this
in George H.W. Bush’s Willie Horton ad, and we saw this
in Sharron Angle’s anti-immigration ads.
For now, in this bad economy, the GOP is living on borrowed
time and scapegoats. But the clock is ticking and the nation
is browning, and hate will not grow their base.
Editor, David A. Love, JD is a journalist and human rights
advocate based in Philadelphia, is a graduate of Harvard College
and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
and a contributor to The Huffington Post, theGrio, The Progressive Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune
News Service, In
These Times and Philadelphia
Independent Media Center. He
also blogs atdavidalove.com, NewsOne, Daily
Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.