As Different – As Black and White

By Clarence Page
Thurdsay, January 21, 1999

Reader, be warned: Gordon Lee Baum says I am a "white Southerner hater."

I say it takes one to know.

Baum, a white Southerner from the St. Louis suburb of Bridgeton, was miffed that I called the Council of Conservative Citizens, the organization he founded and leads, a "white nationalist organization," remarkably similar, although racially opposite, to black nationalist organizations like Minister Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam.

We had our little exchange by telephone over the air on on KCRW, a Los Angeles affiliate of National Public Radio.

Baum's CCC is an outgrowth of the old segregationist White Citizens Councils of the South, a group to which he once belonged. The CCC does not openly call for racial segregation, but it remains dedicated unabashedly to the salvation of White America.

"I think it is fair to say we are a pro-white, pro-European group, but not racist," he said on the air.

Rhetorical gymnastics like that kept Baum's group well below the radar screen of mainstream America through its 10-year history. Then along came recent revelations that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Rep. Robert L. Barr, R-Ga., the anti-Clinton movement's point man in the House, had spoken at CCC meetings.

Both Barr and Lott quickly distanced themselves from the group, through spokesmen. Although Barr had sat through a seminar before addressing the CCC, he denied knowledge of what the group stood for. In a disclaimer statement, he acknowledged that "the group does harbor some very unusual views that neither I nor any member of Congress endorse."

What views are those? Well, besides the standard conservative complaints about affirmative action and busing for school desegregation, Baum denounces racial intermarriage, non-European immigration and other "threats" he sees looming over America's traditional identity as a white European nation.

He also said, "It is legitimate to be concerned that the United States will soon have a non-white majority. I think the majority of American people if they understood what this was about, would not be in favor of it."

He also pointed out that "currently 90 percent of immigrants to the United States come from a Third World country. Do we want the U.S. to become a Third World country?"

Such language is genteel compared to the words of the writers on his organization's Web site and in its quarterly newsletter, Citizens Informer.  CCC writers and columnists have described Martin Luther King Jr. as "a depraved miscreant," railed against the North's "War of Aggression" against the South and described America's population these days as turning into "a slimy brown mass of glop."

Lott at first denied any direct knowledge of the group, until photos turned up in the Citizens Informer of his appearing at the group's gatherings in Mississippi. One photo showed Lott delivering a keynote address. Another in the summer of 1997 issue showed Baum and other CCC leaders "meeting privately" in Lott's Senate office.

Lott endorsed the group as a "needed" organization to "help protect our flag, Constitution and other symbols of freedom" from the "dark forces."

But now Lott, too, distances himself from the group's unusual views through a spokesman. In the midst of the Clinton impeachment trial, the media have not been terribly aggressive in pursuing Lott to answer questions about this group.

I wonder why. Baum went ballistic when I wondered aloud how Congress and the nation would have greeted the news had the races been reversed.

What, I imagined, if a leading black legislator like, for example, Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts, the House Republican conference chairman, had spoken to, say, Farrakhan's Nation of Islam and praised it as a "needed" organization?

How would the media have greeted that news? How would we have handled, say, a photo of Watts meeting "privately" with Farrakhan in his office?

Farrakhan, like Baum, denies any racism or anti-Semitism in his rhetoric.  But he has been widely accused of it just the same, not without reason, as Baum has.

But, unlike Baum, Farrakhan has been denounced for it in a congressional censure vote. The fact that he is a private citizen did not stop Congress from lashing out at him in 1984, after he reportedly called "Judaism" a "dirty" or "gutter" religion.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson's associations with Farrakhan and his own unfortunate reference to New York City as "Hymietown" haunted him throughout his 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns, even though he, like Lott and Barr, distanced himself and apologized.

Baum is wrong about me, as he is wrong about so much else. I am not a hater of Southern whites or anyone else. Baum doesn't speak for the new South. He just has a few friends in high place.

Copyright Union-Tribune Publishing Co.