Racism Is Only a Conservative Problem, Right ?

By Larry Elder, Syndicated Columnist
Jewish World Review, Thursday, January 21, 1999

Last year, Rep. Bob Barr, Republican of Georgia, gave the keynote speech before the Council of Conservative Citizens.

What is the Council of Conservative Citizens?  It is a Southern organization that considers whites superior to blacks and equates interracial marriage to white genocide. And Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott also has ties to the CCC, where he, too, has spoken.   Mr. Lott's uncle called the senator an "honorary member" of the CCC, a tribute Lott disputes.  For what it's worth - and it may not be much - both Lott and Barr recently denounced the CCC's racist ideology.  Even if insincere, the Lott/Barr backpedaling is a far cry from the defiant, Jim-Crow-loving Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who bellowed, "Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

Close affiliation with a white supremacist group suggests either racism, stupidity or reckless negligence, none of which is excusable.  Politicians, pundits and newspaper columnists across the country quite properly blast away at Barr and Lott for their coziness to the CCC.  Yes, let us all reject racial identity politics, whether coming from the left or coming from the right.

But did the decibel level get this high when then-NAACP Executive Director Ben Chavis embraced Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam?  An accomplished demagogue, the Rev. Farrakhan has called Judaism "a gutter religion," Adolf Hitler "a great man" and Los Angeles Korean shop owners "bloodsuckers."

No one equates the NAACP, the venerable civil rights organization, with the racist CCC.   But if, by association, we assume Messrs.  Lott and Barr share the CCC's repugnant ideology, do we also draw the same connection between the NAACP and Mr. Farrakhan?

Years ago, Cleveland, Ohio, hosted a national conference of black mayors, some of whom headed towns with majority white populations.  How should the non-black citizens of those towns feel?  Did the voters in XYZ city elect a mayor to serve as a "black mayor," or did they elect someone to fix the potholes and handle snow removal?   Rep. Maxine Waters represents a district where Asians, Hispanics and whites outnumber blacks.  Yet, Mrs. Waters became president of the Black Congressional Caucus. So, what is everybody else - potted plants?

And Mrs. Waters accuses the CIA of playing a major role in the Los Angeles cocaine trade, an assertion dismissed by the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and the New York Times.  Still, Mrs. Waters thundered, "If it's the last thing I ever do, I intend to make somebody pay for what they have done to my people."  My people?  And the others in her district are what, hood ornaments?

In many American cities, minority police officers form organizations to protect the interests of officers of their own color.  Is it OK for white officers to do likewise?  After all, many whites abhor affirmative action, arguing that preferences sacrifice quality, compromise public safety and unfairly deny them opportunities.

A few years ago, Cal State Northridge played the racial-identities game when the school set up a debate on affirmative action.  Whom did the students invite and pay to argue the anti-affirmative action side?  David Duke.  (Anybody who opposes affirmative action is, therefore, a bigot - get it?)

How ironic that the Barr/Lott "scandal" should erupt around Martin Luther King's birthday.  Today, our teachers ask schoolkids, "How would King feel were he alive today?  Would the country be 'further along' in race relations?"

Who knows?  But we can, with certainty, say one thing.  King would have condemned the NAACP's embrace of Louis Farrakhan just as aggressively as he would have condemned Mr. Barr's and Mr. Lott's dance with the CCC. King would have branded someone who condemns Jews as unfit to be called a man of God. King would have rejected the politics of racial identity, whether from the left or from the right.

The harsh glare of national attention on Messrs.  Barr and Lott demonstrates our national abhorrence of white racism.  Let us condemn all racism just as harshly.   For the enemy remains the mentality that favors group rights over individual rights.

The majestic late Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas once said, "We are one, we Americans; we are one. And we reject any intruder who seeks to divide us on the basis of race and color. We must not allow ideas like political correctness to divide us and cause us to revert hard- won achievements in human rights and civil rights. . . . We reject both white racism and black racism. . . . Our strength in this country is rooted in our diversity. Our history bears witness to that fact: E pluribus unum! From many, one. It was a good idea when the country was founded, and it's a good idea today."

(Also published as "Racism Through a Two-Way Lens," Washington Times, Monday, January 25, 1999, page A17)