La Shawn Barber

Last week, Republican senator Trent Lott was selected by his colleagues to serve as Senate Minority Whip in the next Congress.

All I can say is…Welcome back, Mr. Lott!

The GOP’s decision was met with derision. Four years ago, Lott was drummed out of his leadership post as Senate Majority Leader for making what some considered racially insensitive remarks.

On December 5, 2002, at a private birthday party for the 100-year-old senator Strom Thurmond, Lott said the following: “I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years.”

The late Strom Thurmond used to be a staunch segregationist and ran for president in 1948 as a member of the Dixicrat Party – an offshoot of the Democratic Party. Thurmond had long since renounced his segregationist ways, and Lott’s toast merely was a tribute to a man who’d lived a century and spent his life in public service.

Reaction: Liberals of all colors threw a collective hissy fit, and Lott was castigated as a racist. He received blanketed coverage in mainstream media (MSM) and the blogosphere. Al Gore said his remarks were “fundamentally racist.” Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) member Rep. Elijah Cummings said, “It sends a chilling message to all people. Those are the kinds of words that tear this nation apart.” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee said, “It was a shocking, piercing voice through the fabric of black America.”

Lott certainly didn’t help matters by acting as though he were guilty of a crime, shamefully groveling on Black Entertainment Television, and trying and failing to convince blacks he was not a racist by expressing support for skin color preferences. Within two weeks, his head rolled.

Liberals, blacks especially, tend to be easily offended by so-called racially insensitive remarks only when the speaker is a Republican or a conservative (not necessarily the same). Their white liberal comrades get a pass every time.

On April 1, 2004, on the floor of the United States Senate, Democratic senator Chris Dodd said the following about Senator Robert Byrd, who’d just cast his 17,000th roll call vote: “I do not think it is an exaggeration at all to say to my friend from West Virginia that he would have been a great senator at any moment. Some were right for the time. Robert C. Byrd, in my view, would have been right at any time. He would have been right at the founding of this country. He would have been in the leadership crafting this Constitution. He would have been right during the great conflict of Civil War in this nation. He would have been right at the great moments of international threat we faced in the 20th century. I cannot think of a single moment in this Nation’s 220-plus year history where he would not have been a valuable asset to this country. [emphasis added]

Reaction: Crickets chirping…

For those who don’t know, Byrd was a member of and recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s. Does “right at any time” include his KKK tour of duty? Why was Lott called out for toasting a man at a private party, but Dodd’s comments on taxpayer-funded time were ignored by MSM? But wait…there’s more.

In 2001, Byrd uttered these words on a cable news show: “There are white niggers. I’ve seen a lot of white niggers in my time.”

Reaction: Crickets chirping…

I couldn’t care less what Lott or Dodd or Byrd said, but the dirty double standard gets to me every time.

Some conservatives think Lott is the wrong choice to lead because of his “racially insensitive” remarks. Others believe he symbolizes a step backward for the GOP. If Lott is a step backward, is selecting John “I knew about Mark Foley’s obsession with underage House pages but did nothing about it” Boehner as House Minority Leader a giant leap toward the party’s future?

Reaction: Crickets chirping…


La Shawn Barber

Freelance writer La Shawn Barber blogs at the American Civil Rights Institute blog.