Against Less Visible Dangers
Armstrong Williams, Syndicated Columnist
Washington Times, Saturday, January 30, 1999, page C3
© Copyright 1999 News World Communications, Inc.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once remarked, "It may be true
that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from
lynching me, and I think that's pretty important."
specific ways, the problem of racism in America has improved in
the 35 years since King made his famous remark. In some other
ways, it may have gotten worse.
that racism today is far more subtle than it was in the days when
KKK members regularly stomped down streets with sheets over their
heads, spewing vitriolic rage. At least you could see that sort
of racism coming a mile away. The shape of racism has now been
twisted inward. It manifests itself in snide remarks and vague
unrest. It is potentially more dangerous because although we brush
against it, we can't always see it. Often, we wave at it when
we step outside to pick up our morning paper. At dinner parties,
we smile at it and it smiles back. All the while it erodes not
with a thunderous bang, but with the silent fury of a river current.
in point: the Council of Conservative Citizens. On the surface,
the group is a community organization with longstanding ties in
several Southern states, including Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia
and Mississippi. On the surface, council members are real Americans,
like the ones at your local barber shop, alike in their fervent
belief in the American flag, "freedom under God," and
the nation where anyone can become president.
the Council of Conservative Citizens is essentially an "old
boys network" of segregationists, members of the John Birch
Society and old George C. Wallace supporters united under the
common goal of preserving Anglo-American culture. (Translation:
the group feeds off racial angst.)
past, the group proved powerful enough to affect legislation,
flexing a political network that apparently snakes all the way
to the nation's capital. As reported a few weeks ago, Senate Majority
Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, and Rep. Bob Barr,
Georgia Republican, spoke before them, with Mr. Lott endorsing
the Council as a valuable institution. In a bid to establish backpedaling
as an Olympic sport, Mr. Lott has since denied any "firsthand
knowledge of the group." This was a lie. As it turns out,
he has been associated with the organization since its inception.
Likewise, Mr. Barr pleaded ignorance.
minimal research on the council's Web page reveals its overt racism.
There, you can read "an open letter to white people,"
or find out why Martin Luther King was a "depraved miscreant,"
or why Abraham Lincoln is "surely the most evil American
in history," or a host of other diatribes strung together
by the common thread of black blood eroding Western Civilization.
me shock and horror to know that Mr. Lott and Mr. Barr gave legitimacy
to this racist organization by speaking before them. As members
of Congress, they bear a dual responsibility to represent the
nation's conscience and to act as respectable faceplates for the
Republican Party. Instead, they've suggested the worst kind of
stereotype: that lurking beneath the Republican Party is a private
identity that harkens back to a time when blacks were valued only
as a cheap source of labor.
thus not surprising that despite the fact that the opinions of
the black populace run parallel to the Republican agenda on several
key issues - school prayer, $500-per-child federal tax credits,
the "three strikes" law, etc. - only 8.7 percent actually
identify themselves as Republicans. As long as the Republican
Party maintains its "old country" ties, it will never
make inroads in the minority communities that already have difficulty
identifying with the Republican leadership. Compounding the problem
is that, with the notable exception of Republican National Committee
Chair Jim Nicholson, there has been scarcely little condemnation
of Mr. Lott and Mr. Barr from their colleagues. The Congressional
Black Caucus has remained largely silent and religious organizations
have not been shaking their fists in the air.
needs to speak out! We are only a couple of generations removed
from a time when blacks were unable to purchase real estate in
this country. While such hateful enclaves do maintain the freedom
of assembly, we cannot endorse them by speaking for them or writing
for their newsletters. Amid all this, Mr. Lott has yet to issue
a definitive apology. A spokesman for the senator recently said,
"Sen. Lott has made his distance from the point of view of
this group clear and isn' t going to comment further." Mr.
Barr has been a bit more forthright when he criticized the group
for its "repugnant racial issues" and went on to say,
"If I had been aware white supremacists' views occupied any
place in the council's philosophy, I would have never agreed to
speak." In the immortal words of German poet Johann Wolfgang
von Goethe: "Nothing is more terrible than to see ignorance