Scott Johnson — whose sense of shame is inversely proportionate to his lack of historical knowledge — invokes the term “massive resistance” in a post from yesterday, which reprints a letter from University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman on the subject of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. Coleman, responding to the passage of Proposal 2, has spoken (and now written) of her university’s continuing commitment to racial diversity; as such, she has convened a task force named “Diversity Blueprints” that will “explore ways to encourage diversity within the boundaries of the law.” Asking the recipients of the letter for “your ideas and your energy,” Coleman vows that “[t]ogether, we must continue to make this world-class university one that reflects the richness of the world.”
Johnson, chiding Coleman for disrespecting the “rule of law,” glibly compares the university’s administrators to the revanchist ideologues who tried to throttle desegregation efforts in the American South. Other dirtbags and morons have drawn similar analogies in recent weeks, usually — as in John Fund’s editorial (see “dirtbags” link) — by referring to George Wallace’s infamous 1963 inauguration speech.
Comparisons between affirmative action and segregation are, of course, willfully absurd and melodramatic. There’s simply no way to compare the caste system of white supremacy — a regime of collective humiliation and exclusion that saturated every aspect of Southern cultural, economic, social and political experience for more than a half-century — with the mildly redistributive affirmative action policies of universities seeking the objectively laudible (if blandly-phrased) goal of “diversity.” Considering, however, that we live in an era when actual expressions of segregationist nostalgia have no long-term, adverse consequences, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that historical memory can be abused and trivialized in this way.
Let’s remind ourselves, nevertheless, of what “massive resistance” actually meant. Rather than abide by the vague contours of the Brown decision, school districts closed their doors and white parents established private “Christian academies” to avoid the indignity of having their children educated with Blacks; scores of “White Citizens’ Councils” appeared in cities and towns throughout the South, where their 250,000 members defended the beleaguered condition of Caucasian rights; Black children who dared to cross the racial picket lines were harrassed and threatened to such a degree that they required federal marshalls and troops from the 101st Airborne Division to protect them from harm; school libraries were sifted for evidence of “integrationist” literature produced (of course) by Jews and Communists; Southern state legislatures revived the antebellum doctrine of “interposition,” passing more than 450 laws intended to block federal interference with their caste system; and self-proclaimed Christians rose to their pulpits and condemned the red menace emanating from the nation’s capital — including a young minister from Virginia named Jerry Falwell, who claimed to see “the hand of Moscow” in the Warren Court’s ruling. (Had the justices “known God’s word” — which dictated that Blacks serve Jews and gentiles alike — Falwell had no doubt the Brown ruling could have been avoided.)
And since John Fund, Scott Johnson and others have clearly never read George Wallace’s infamous address, let’s remind ourselves of that, too, and ask if it isn’t just a wee bit improper to suggest that Mary Sue Coleman is carrying on his tradition of despicable, racist populism:
Today I have stood, where once Jefferson Davis stood, and took an oath to my people. It is very appropriate then that from this Cradle of the Confederacy, this very Heart of the Great Anglo-Saxon Southland, that today we sound the drum for freedom as have our generations of forebears before us done, time and time again through history. Let us rise to the call of freedom-loving blood that is in us and send our answer to the tyranny that clanks its chains upon the South. In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny . . . and I say . . . segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever. . . .
Let us send this message back to Washington by our representatives who are with us today: that from this day we are standing up, and the heel of tyranny does not fit the neck of an upright man; that we intend to take the offensive and carry our fight for freedom across the nation, wielding the balance of power we know we possess in the Southland; that WE, not the insipid bloc of voters of some sections will determine in the next election who shall sit in the White House of these United States; that from this day, from this hour, from this minute, we give the word of a race of honor that we will tolerate their boot in our face no longer. And let those certain judges put that in their opium pipes of power and smoke it for what it is worth.
Hear me, Southerners! You sons and daughters who have moved north and west throughout this nation — we call on you from your native soil to join with us in national support and vote. And we know — wherever you are, away from the hearths of the Southland — that you will respond, for though you may live in the fartherest reaches of this vast country, your heart has never left Dixieland.
And you native sons and daughters of old New England’s rock-ribbed patriotism — and you sturdy natives of the great Mid-West — and you descendants of the far West flaming spirit of pioneer freedom. We invite you to come and be with us, for you are of the Southern spirit and the Southern philosophy. You are Southerners too and brothers with us in our fight.