Richard Cohen, Washington Post
Friday, April 9, 1999
bless Julian Bond. Like some latter-day Diogenes, he goes around
Washington seeking the contemporary version of an honest man --
a politician who is not a hypocrite. All he wants, he says, is
for Congress to condemn the racist Council of Conservative Citizens
with the same alacrity it did that antisemite and all-around hater
Khalid Muhammad. So far, most members of Congress have ducked
not surprised. Bond is a man of considerable moral strength, but
his crusade is fueled by a dogged naivete. He is asking Congress
to do the right thing for no other reason than it is the right
thing -- a somewhat unpersuasive argument in Washington.
fact remains that the C of CC is a political force. I deduce that
not from any polls or from calling around but simply from the
reluctance of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to denounce
it. He has been asked to do so by Reps. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.)
and Michael Forbes (R-N.Y.) as well as Bond.
name was not picked out of a hat. The majority leader has spoken
to the group's national board and been pictured with its leaders.
He explained that he (1) didn't quite understand what the group
stood for, (2) doesn't agree with it at all and (3) now wants
nothing more to do with it.
the proposed resolution is going nowhere. Lott would prefer a
generic one that condemns all sorts of hate groups wherever they
may be -- including, one would surmise, the Hutu and Serbian paramilitaries.
As far as is known, Lott has spoken to neither of them.
Bond and others note that the condemnation of Muhammad suggests
a certain amount of hypocrisy. "So I guess what it comes down
to is when it's a black person who is racist it's all right for
Congress to condemn him, but when it's a white group, Congress
does nothing," Wexler told The Post's Kevin Merida.
not exactly. The example of Muhammad is a red herring. He is so
loathsome and so marginal that it was easy to condemn him. But
Louis Farrakhan is a different matter. The Nation of Islam is
no less racist than the C of CC -- just as obsessed with racial
purity and supposedly innate racial differences -- and antisemitic
to boot. Farrakhan has spoken of whites and Jews in ways that
evidence a raw, visceral bigotry. The Southern Poverty Law Center,
the C of CC's implacable adversary, knows what the two organizations
have in common. It has labeled them both hate groups.
yet Farrakhan has never been condemned by Congress or by some
important black leaders. Bond has spoken out, but he, as I said
at the outset, is a special fellow. Jesse Jackson, on the other
hand, spoke to the Farrakhan-inspired Million Man March. Rep.
Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) was also there. So were scores of other
black leaders. How can they expect a condemnation of the C of
CC when, to suit their own purposes, they make an exception for
Farrakhan? What is the moral principle here -- white racism is
wrong, but black racism is, well, understandable, forgivable and
beside the point?
hard to draw any other conclusion. It can't be that most members
of Congress believe that Jewish doctors purposely spread AIDS
or that Jews played a disproportionate role in the slave trade.
These are the rantings of a bigot. No member of Congress could
their silence, their sagacious prudence, is no different from
Lott's and that of others in the Senate when it comes to the C
of CC. They have the guts to condemn only bigots who don't amount
to much -- who can't hurt them at the polls. But let a group get
a bit of a following, let it gussy up its racist message with
goop about southern tradition and the ol' stars and bars and suddenly
it gets pretty hard to condemn. You can almost hear the unanimous
word of caution: Hey, some good people are in those organizations.
sense an effort to embarrass Lott, but that's because they know
little about Julian Bond. He is simply an eloquent hater of hate
itself -- without regard to race, national origin or political
clout. The resolution he seeks will fail, but he serves a useful
purpose. He throws a light on hypocrisy. In Washington, it takes
a broad beam indeed.
Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company