Black Leaders Are in Poor Position to Go After Lott

By Stanley Crouch
New York Daily News
From: News and Views | Opinion |
Sunday, January 17, 1999

Last week, as the truth closed in on Sen. Trent Lott and his association with the Council of Conservative Citizens, he quickly moved.

Gordon Lee Baum, CEO of the organization, refers to it as "pro-white, but not racist." But Lott, the Senate majority leader, now suddenly aware of what the CCC is about, released a statement that said, "I have made my condemnation of the white supremacist and racist view of this group, or any group, clear. Any use of my name to publicize their view is not only unauthorized, it's wrong."

Who believes this whopper? Hardly anyone, I'm sure. Lott's 10 years as an "honorary member," supporter, columnist and keynote speaker for the CCC are well-documented.

It will require the media turning their attention away from the pornography of impeachment politics to pull Lott down from his stonewalland into the light where he belongs.

But what may be the hardest truth of all is this: If the civil rights establishment and so many prominent black members of Congress had not backed Louis Farrakhan and his Million Man March, they could probably have brought Lott down by now. Or at least set him to rocking in the rhythms of political doom, like Humpty Dumpty.

Prior to the march, I argued with New Jersey Democratic Rep. Donald Payne on a TV show against the folly of supporting Farrakhan's attempt to enter mainstream politics. But Payne, who is usually nobody's dummy, held to the party line.

The line was that this was a gathering of, by and for black people, and one didn't have to agree with everything said on the podium to support the idea itself. Of course, neither Payne nor any other elected black official would have applied something that fast and loose to white politicians gathering under the umbrella of a bigot.

Losing Moral Authority

Come that unfortunate day in the nation's capital, and there they were on the podium, one black Congress member after another, along with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who had made the mistake of bringing Farrakhan out of obscurity and into the light during his '84 presidential campaign.

On that afternoon, all those people blew their chance to have the moral authority to go after Trent Lott now, which is probably why we have not heard anything from them. Yet.

This is very important, one of the greatest blunders in black American history. If these leaders had had the courage and foresight to recognize that at least part of their actual power in America rests on their ability to morally sway the country by upholding its richest values, they could have held a press conference under Jackson's charismatic leadership and torn the pants off Trent Lott, revealing not underwear but a sheet.

Would the media have refused to attend a press conference of black elected officials led by Jesse Jackson? No. Had Jackson read aloud the damaging information about the Senate majority leader and the CCC, things would have gotten quite hot. Had he asked the media to show interest in Lott's association with and celebration of the CCC, there probably would have been an explosion of such force that the son of Mississippi, egg yolk running out of his head, would be packing his bags right now.

Every time a Republican stepped out a door, somebody from the media would be asking his or her opinion of Lott's history with the CCC and whether that represented the party's philosophy. Then there would be endless questions about the obvious lies Lott sent out through his press representatives.

As those questions piled up and the facts were laid out over and over, the party would back away from this neo-Confederate.

The moral of this story is that those who associate with bigots cannot complain about somebody else doing the same thing. That is part of the tragedy of our moment.

© Copyright 1999 Daily News, L.P.