It's Slow Going to Get Congress to Denounce White Racist Group

By Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe Columnist
Boston Globe, Friday, February 12, 1999, page A25
� Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company

With a barely tempered incredulity, Robert Wexler cracked that he now had ''bipartisan'' support. This was Wednesday, when Mike Forbes of New York became just the first and so far the only Republican in the US House of Representatives to cosponsor a resolution condemning the Council of Conservative Citizens.

''I want to congratulate Mr. Forbes for his courage in being the first Republican, but this should not be a partisan issue,'' said Wexler, a Florida Democrat. ''Here we have a clear example of racism and a white supremacist dogma. Apparently in some quarters this is not worthy of attention. That is bizarre.''

Forbes joined 52 Democrats who so far support the resolution, which was sent to members last week by Wexler and James Clyburn of South Carolina. The resolution reminded Congress that the group is descended from the White Citizens Councils of the 1950s and '60s, the suit-and-tie side of the Ku Klux Klan.

It said the council ''promotes racism, divisiveness, and intolerance through its newsletter, World Wide Web site, and public discourse,'' and ''promulgates dogma that supports white supremacy and anti-Semitism'' and ''provides access to and opportunities for the promotion of extremist neo-Nazi ideology and propaganda that incites hate crimes and violence.''

The Council of Conservative Citizens was little known until it was reported that Senate majority leader Trent Lott spoke to the group several times in the 1990s and hosted council officials in his office in 1997. Other powerful politicians who have spoken before the council include Bob Barr, a member of the House Judiciary Committee; Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and Governor Kirk Fordice of Mississippi.

Wexler's staff contacted Lott's office 10 days ago to ask Lott to introduce a similar resolution in the Senate. Wexler has not heard back from Lott. ''In fairness, we know he's tied up with impeachment, but it is important that he address the issue,'' Wexler said. ''It is fair for Americans to question the association of members of Congress with a group that stands for bigotry and racism. We're way past the point in 1999 where we can push it under the rug. I'm not looking for anybody's scalp or to embarrass anybody in Congress. We're looking to embarrass the council for what it is.''

Congress found it easy to embarrass black hate in 1994, voting 97-0 in the Senate and 361-34 in the House to condemn the vicious anti-Jewish, antiwhite, antigay idiocies of Khalid Abdul Muhammad. National media pressure rained down on prominent African-Americans to denounce Muhammad and forced Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to demote his top aide.

But that same year, white senators refused to reprimand Senator Ernest Hollings of South Carolina. Hollings, who has referred to black people as ''darkies'' and Latinos as ''wetbacks,'' said African heads of state are cannibals who come to international conferences to ''get a square meal'' instead of ''eating each other.''

It took no courage for Congress to stomp on Muhammad, who runs little except his mouth. Wexler's resolution gives Congress another chance to attack bigotry within its own house, a bigotry at its most dangerous because no one knows how much of it informs the running of this country by men like Lott.

There is no question of the resegregationist agenda of the Council of Conservative Citizens when four of the seven links listed on the home page for former Klan leader David Duke link back to the Council of Conservative Citizens.

There is no question when the council's Web page links to Southern Independence, a page featuring a Confederate flag and a portrait and quotation of Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest traded slaves. He was a Confederate general. He founded the KKK.

There can be no question of the council's links to anti-Semitism: Several sites that praise the council and provide links to it bait Jews in a way that would spur Muhammad to a Nazi salute.

Many links deny the Holocaust and sell T-shirts with swastikas and Nazi stormtrooper symbols. Many sites claim, like Muhammad, that Jews ''suck the blood'' of everyone else, wrapping their ''parasitical tentacles'' so tightly around Wall Street, the media, and the entertainment industry that we should be called the ''Jewnited Snakes of America.''

The same goes for their hatred of equal rights for women, gay men and lesbian women, immigrants of color, rights for anyone who is not a white, Christian male. That is why Wexler finds it hard to believe that the same Republicans who moved so quickly to condemn Muhammad are so uniformly silent about a white organization associated with the same kind of hate.

''You would think that everyone would join in this resolution,'' Wexler said. ''In fairness, it may not be the first thing on everyone's agenda, but in one week, apparently 48 Democrats'' - now 52 - ''had the time to sign it. Why is it appropriate for this body to condemn racism by black people but not in this case? There is not one positive thing about the council. It represents the worst in America.''