Walter E. Williams
During World War II, ex-Ku Klux Klansman, now U.S. senator, Robert Byrd vowed never to fight "with a Negro by my side. Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds." Just a couple of years ago, Byrd lectured us on the floor of the Senate that "there are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time." I wonder whether he was talking about whites who act like blacks. San Francisco's esteemed mayor Willie Brown once described a successful legislative battle this way: "We beat those old white boys fair and square." Spike Lee said in disapproval of interracial marriages: "I give interracial couples a look. Daggers. They get uncomfortable when they see me on the street." The National Association of Black Social Workers drafted a position paper calling white adoptions of black children "cultural genocide." They warned against "transculturation ... when one dominant culture overpowers and forces another culture to accept a foreign form of existence." Donna Brazile, Al Gore's presidential campaign manager, called Republicans "white boys" who seek to "exclude, denigrate and leave behind." At a celebration for retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said that Mississippians were proud to have voted for Thurmond in his 1948 presidential campaign "and, if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years." Which among the above statements are the most racist, which have received the most media coverage and which caused the most angst? Clearly, Lott's statement received the most media coverage and created the most angst, but it doesn't begin to qualify as the most racist. You say: "Williams, that's different. High officials shouldn't honor and praise racists or ex-racists." Then what about Bill Clinton's acknowledged political mentors -- former Arkansas Sen. J. William Fulbright and former Arkansas Gov. Orville Faubus -- who were both rabid segregationists? Yet the former president highly praises Fulbright and bestowed upon him the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award. By the way, Fulbright was one of 19 senators who issued a statement titled, "The Southern Manifesto," condemning the 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown vs. Board of Education and defending segregation. That's a bit more recent than Thurmond's run for the White House. Does Clinton's praise of Fulbright mean that he supported "The Southern Manifesto," just as the assertion that Lott's praise of Thurmond means he supported Thurmond's segregationist stand in 1948? If so, why not also condemn Clinton? I have several possible theories on the responses to Lott's rather stupid remarks -- stupid in the context of our politically correct world. My first theory is that conservatives are held to higher standards of decency, conduct and decorum than liberals. In other words, it's like behavior that's tolerated in the case of children but ostracized when adults do the same thing. That theory might also explain why racist statements made by blacks are excused. Another theory is that since 9-11 and President Bush's public popularity, both appointed and unappointed black leaders have had no platform and been paid no attention. Lott's gaffe gives them platform, voice and mission. Finally, the Democrats, having lost all branches of national government in the recent elections, are desperate to get something on Bush and the Republicans, and Trent Lott's statement is the answer to their prayers.

Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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