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On Barbour’s Praise of the Citizens Councils

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Rick Perlstein has a typically brilliant analysis.   Read the whole etc., but a preview:

What happened between Brown v. Board of Education and that January day in 1970 comprises some of the most monstrous inhumanity in the cruel annals of American history. Recently, in a cover feature in the conservative Weekly Standard on his presidential ambitions, Mississippi governor and fellow Yazoo native Haley Barbour had occasion to reflect on that place, in those years. The best that can be said about his recollection is that it is not 100 percent a lie — just deeply confused, mostly wrong, and indicative above all of a cynical man who has made a lucrative career of exploiting racial trauma when it suited him, or throwing it down a memory hole when it did not; which is to say, an archetypal Dixie conservative.

I especially recommend Perlstein’s post to William Jacobson, who defends Barbour with one of the worst analogies in known human history:

1947 was the year in which the color barrier was broken in Major League Baseball. Prior to Jackie Robinson taking the field, MLB (or whatever it was called at the time) was segregated. Actually, it was more than segregated, it excluded blacks completely.

Using the logic of Matthew Yglesias of Think Progress, who is having his 15 minutes of race card fame, anyone who expresses any measure of praise for the pre-1947 Yankees necessarily would be “expressing affection for a White Supremacist” organization. It would not matter that the praise was for the Yankees’ baseball skills; any expression of anything less than complete condemnation of the Yankees necessarily evidences tolerance for racism because the Yankees were part of a racist system.

This is remarkably silly. While the Yankees were part of an institution that (like many of the time) was racially exclusionary, they were primarily a baseball team; people who remember Joe DiMaggio or Babe Ruth or Bill Dickey or Joe McCarthy or George Pipgras fondly are remembering them because of what they did on the baseball field. Citizens Councils, conversely, existed for essentially the sole purpose of maintaining apartheid. The White Citizens Councils weren’t just a passive “part of a racist system,” they were formed to actively enforce white supremacy and black disenfranchisement. Their ends were the same as the Klan’s, with the only difference being that they favored economic to physical terror. Praising them is like praising the local Klan for handing out free Christmas hams.

In conclusion, given the nature of some of its public officials and their reflexive defenders, I’m puzzled that the GOP’s share of the African-American votes maxes out at about 8%…

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