Mary Katharine Ham

Is it just me or does it feel more likely that the people who see and hear these innocuous ads and immediately jump to accusations of racism are the ones with the racial hang-ups, not Republican Southerners?

All of their theories, of course, are predicated on the idea that Tennesseans, and all Southern conservatives, are troglodytic racists who are boorish enough to vote against a man because he’s black and simultaneously sophisticated enough to pick up on very subtle coded political messages about his race.

I just don’t buy it. Listen, I understand that white Southerners are not wholly undeserving of such suspicions. Neither, certainly, are Republican operatives. I’ve lived in the South my whole life. I have seen much racial strife. But I’ve also seen much racial strife overcome.

The South is a resilient place full of warm people who don’t spend all their time thinking about race. It’s a place where black and white people live side by side, in greater percentages than any other region in the country, and where peace between them is the rule, not the exception.

Tennessee, in particular, was the first former Confederate state to ratify the 14th amendment and it had an anti-Klan law as early as 1868. It elected its first black member of the state General Assembly in 1873—Sampson W. Keeble.

More recently, the state has also elected Harold Ford, Jr. and his father before him to represent the 9th Congressional District from 1975 until now. Those are just a few things you can learn about Tennessee from a quick Google search. The same can be done for any Southern state. The South and its people are not the caricatures the Left makes them out to be.

Do we have a dark history? Yes, of course, but we’ve also proven surprisingly good at overcoming that history, and it never sits right with me when people ride into the South calling out racism where it doesn’t exist, creating more problems, sowing mistrust, and making it harder and harder for people suffering real racism to be taken seriously.

Some people criticized me a month ago for not being sufficiently quick to condemn both George Allen and Jim Webb as racists because of allegations that they had both used the n-word in the past. The allegations are a concern, to be sure, but I’m willing to listen to denials and apologies they offer now for 30-year-old offenses. Why? Because if you can’t believe that men can genuinely change their hearts on matters of race, then you cannot believe the South I love exists.

Sadly, many liberals don’t believe it does, so it’s easy for them to assume the worst of ads like the ones run for Corker in Tennessee this week.

Frankly, I get a little sick of being lectured on race issues by the same people who give a pass to Steny Hoyer for using the word “slavish” in reference to black Maryland Senate candidate Michael Steele. These are the same people who didn’t really mind that Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd used the n-word twice in a 2001 TV interview and didn’t squeal much at all when California Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante dropped the n-bomb during a speech in 2001. They’re the same folks who tolerate blackface Photoshops of Joe Lieberman and thick-lipped, offensive cartoons of Condi Rice.

The Washington Post has printed 168 references to Allen’s questionably racial “macaca” incident, and devoted but one reference to the fact that Webb used the word “towel-heads” in an interview last week.

It’s pretty clear that, for the media and liberals, condemnation for racism is not based on the credibility of the accusations. Instead, it’s handed down based largely on party affiliation. Racism becomes acceptable when perpetrated by a Democrat or a minority. It makes you wonder how serious they are about actually tackling the problem. I happen to dislike racism in all its forms.

Just today, I had to ban a commenter on my blog. It’s the first time I’ve ever done it. He was a liberal and a minority who had taken to using derogatory racial terms for white people. I have a blanket rule against racial slurs and he violated it. When I banned him, he wrote me an e-mail to tell me he was just “showing White people how it feels to be derided.”

Uh huh. He and the rest of the liberals like him can come back and lecture me when they’ve got another idea for fighting racism than creating more of it.

Update: Please enjoy a Townhall video production on this same subject. It's a short video commentary hosted by Mary Katharine Ham. It's something new we're working on at Townhall, and I hope you'll take the time to try out HamNation. It's airing twice a week on the Townhall Blog.

Mary Katharine Ham

Mary Katharine Ham is editor-at-large of, a contributor to Townhall Magazine.

Be the first to read Mary Katharine Ham's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.