and Hatred Here at Home
Colbert I. King
Saturday, December 26, 1998; Page A19
Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company
week's column, "Lott's Odd Friends," concerning Senate Majority
Leader Trent Lott's association with the Council of Conservative
Citizens, a self-described "racialist" group, brought one of his
defenders out of the woodwork. The message left on my answering
machine was so, shall we say, arresting, that I shared it with
my editorial page colleagues and had it transcribed so you could
sample it too. Here 'tis:
King, Jack [last name withheld] calling. I am astonished by the
article you wrote that appeared in my newspaper, containing all
kinds of salacious charges against Trent Lott and Bob Barr. You
know behind all that facade, you know what? I smell a Jew."
let's pause here.
your olfactory organ fails you. I am not Jewish. In fact, I am
probably your worst nightmare a large black man with an
even larger memory. But sorry, I interrupted. Please continue:
folks are the worst people in the world. When it comes to being
honest, there's not an honest one among you."
Jack got all philosophical on me.
that fellow, I forget his name, Diogenes, that walked through
a village with a lit lamp looking for an honest man? Somebody
should walk through any city in the country with a menorah lit
up looking for an honest Jew. You folks are the masters of viciousness,
deceit and stab in the back of any people on the face of the earth.
Have you ever wondered why nobody likes Jews? Well you're a perfect
having achieved perfection at anything, I think I'll accept that.
Jack had a little more to say, but this is enough.
it might be asked, during this season of joy, peace and reconciliation
should a deep-dyed antisemite be allowed to intrude? Because Jack
is a timely reminder -- especially to the baby boomers and Generation
X that quacks haven't gone anywhere; they're still out
there, cruising below the radar screen where polls rarely pick
them up. They were here at the end of the last century, they were
around to make the 20th a living hell for generation upon generation,
and sadly, they will be with us as we enter the next millennium.
Lott's associates in the Council of Conservative Citizens are
another reminder of that fact.
may be tempting to think of extremists of the radical right only
as gun-toting militia holed up in Pacific Northwest cabins stockpiled
with food and artillery for the day when they and the U.S. government
finally get it on. Or that racists and antisemites are loud, vulgar,
beer-guzzling roughnecks whose idea of a good time is to stroll
around the trailer park adorned in cut-off sweat shirts with their
belly buttons hanging out. Those are stereotypes and self-delusional
fact, the crude loudmouth probably can't begin to expound on the
sophisticated racist and antisemitic theories of the mannerly,
clean-shaven suit-and-tie set that populates this area, and those
northern, western and southern states of the Old Confederacy where
chapters of the Council of Conservative Citizens are found. The
council reportedly has 15,000 members and is growing.
the first White Citizens Council, which was formed in Mississippi
in 1954 to resist the Brown school-desegregation decision and
civil rights, today's council is focused on race. But it draws
a bead on non-European immigrants and gays as well.
council's message isn't so naked. It comes cloaked in calls for
tax cuts, less government, school prayer and getting tough on
crime stock conservative issues. And of course, opposition
to "forced busing," "ending reverse discrimination and racial
quotas" and "stricter immigration controls." The racial pitch
is also couched in Old South traditions: honoring the Confederate
flag, singing Dixie, advocating states' rights and preserving
the members' southern "heritage."
chief concern, however, is racial purity theirs. The council's
Virginia chapter state coordinator, Michael Masters, wrote this
in a 1995 article "What Can We Do?": "We ('European derived' Americans)
must defend our identity as a distinct and separate people." "The
key is that we are . . . related by birth and blood, and entitled
to existence as such. Anyone who wishes to deprive us of our unique
and distinct existence commits the crime of genocide against us."
And that crime? The forced "mixing of the races to produce a mongrel
race" in the words of the Citizens Informer (the council's newsletter,
which can be found on its Web site). "Forced integration of schools
and forced open housing and forced integration of recreational
facilities cannot accurately be called anything else," it said.
many of the articles and columns on the council's Web site, as
well as its direct mail materials, echo the self-pity and feelings
of victimization that marked the White Citizens Councils and Ku
Klux Klan. Listen to "A Call to White Americans" by Jennifer Passmore:
"Among all the races . . . the white American alone cannot feel
pride in, defend, or even define his racial identity without arousing
suspicion or outright hatred. He cannot form a Congressional White
Caucus. He cannot hang the works of white artists on a gallery
wall and identify them as such. He has no month, no week, not
even a day set aside to teach his children, his neighbors and
his countrymen about the origins of the white race, ancient and
modern white history, and the accomplishments of white individuals
and the issues facing modern white people." (And all along, I
thought U.S. and world history we were taught in public school
had done that job quite well!)
redefining of white people as victims in a society hijacked by
the undeserving is a continuing council theme. The council uses
this sense of white victimhood to recruit those who feel they
have failed, been rejected or are losing ground in life because
unfair, special treatment has given the upper hand to (you choose):
blacks, Jews, women, gays, Damn Yankees, etc.
their plea for racial solidarity is based on fear. It is a fear,
reports the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks the council,
that caused a featured council columnist to warn that the nation
is turning into a "slimy brown mass of glop."
the Council of Conservative Citizens is the "reincarnation of
the infamous White Citizens Councils" -- as the law center charges
in a report released this month -- may be debated. But the council's
high command has learned its lessons well. The council claims
to have members and supporters in state legislatures, school boards,
city councils, courts and other government bodies around the country,
according to the law center. And this much is certainly true as
well: The council does boast of its relationship with several
prominent politicians including a powerful, national Republican
-- Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi. And the council
has pictures to prove it.
unsavory fact alone must send Jack into raptures.
writer is a member of the editorial page staff.