When the 2000 election devolved into chad-counting in South Florida, I headed down from New York City to cover the mess for the Village Voice. And with all the talk in the media of how there couldn't possibly be any conservatives in Palm Beach—a ritzy place where a lot of liberal New Yorkers retire, among others—I decided to see what I could turn up.
It didn't take long to find race-obsessed right-wingers living right in Palm Beach County. While there, I met Don Black, the founder of Stormfront.org—a blatantly "pro-white" (which inevitably means anti-non-white) Web site—who is like many of the front men for white-supremacy groups. They like publicity, even the negative kind, and use it as a recruitment tool.
So I hung out with the ironically named Black across the street from the building in West Palm where the world was on hold as election officials argued over hanging chads. Just in front of that building, many preppy-outfitted Republicans were lined up with signs like "Stop the Recount" and "Bush won," and we gathered directly across the street surrounded by huge rebel flags. It was probably the closest I'll ever get to being in the middle of a Klan rally.
It was clear that the good Republicans across the way didn't want to be seen as associating with the pro-white Bush supporters I was hanging out (OK, most wanted Pat Buchanan, but they'd settle for Bush if they had to). But it was funny how many of them would flash a secret little thumbs-up when they walked past us, or when they drove by safely shrouded in their cars. Black knew I noticed, and I think it made him rather proud to show that his group's support wasn't limited to a handful of openly "White Pride World Wide" promoters, as their slogan goes.
I thought of that November day when I went looking for details last week about the Council of Conservative Citizens' national convention happening this week in Jackson. Google sent me to a Stormfront forum, where a "sustaining member," Theodoric, invited like-minded folks to the event: "We have several special surprise guests. You won't be disappointed. Jared Taylor of American Renaissance Magazine will also be speaking."
Under the post, another member, truth@last, responded: "I am looking forward to it! I am a member of the CofCC. I am sure it will be a blast."
Taylor is a Yale graduate who espouses "scientific racism" in his writings and speeches to groups like the CofCC. Simply put, he uses pseudo-science to support theories that non-whites are inferior to us lucky white folks. This insidious scientific racism has long relied on lifting crime statistics out of context to scare white people into thinking that the races should not mix, and that non-whites do not deserve equal protection under the law, much less the same access to wealth. This research is even supported by seemingly acceptable organizations and think tanks, such as the Manhattan Institute and the American Enterprise Institute. Not to mention, the research is then too often used to justify our grossly unjust criminal-justice system, which imprisons non-whites more often for lesser crimes, and the defunding of the public schools.
The appeal of men like Taylor and Black relies on fear about violence by non-whites but with no context about what happened to the family unit, for example, when black fathers and mothers were sold away from their families in front of the Old Capitol. Or that until recent years, black men were hunted down, tortured and killed by rebel flag-waving lynch mobs with the support of law enforcement. There is no talk about where the guns and drugs in the inner city come from, how many of the suppliers are white, sometimes elected, and often protected by corruption (yes, by members of groups like this). They do not care, or know, how our white-dominated society conspired in every way to prevent blacks from putting their lives back together after slavery, and then Jim Crow, blocked by laws and practices such as "redlining" to keep them from developing wealth, owning land, starting successful businesses, getting educations.
No, we just hear how many black people commit crimes. These people don't care about the "why" and what it takes to change the legacy of white supremacy.
Sadly, much of the hype and passion for these fear-peddlers starts at gatherings like this week's at the Regency Inn, and on Web sites like http://www.cofcc.org and http://www.stormfront.org, which also links to the blatantly racist http://www.martinlutherking.org.
So, why give them more publicity, you might ask? Because not enough people understand these groups, how they're connected and how they twist rhetoric and "facts" to get the rest of us to hate each other. Too often, with their safe-sounding names and co-opting of the word "conservative" for something much more nefarious than opposing national health insurance, they get little attention by the mainstream media. At least, until someone inspired by their rhetoric goes out and does something big. And violent, perhaps.
We're living in a time when their membership drives can be more successful. The economy is bad, the president is black, and irresponsible celebrity columnists and talk-show hosts have to get louder and more outrageous to keep their gigs. They stir the pot of race distrust and fear of "the other," and suddenly you end up with race hatred that, inevitably, leads to race violence.
It is vital to know that even the Ku Klux Klan was not a constant, even through the darker times in our state. It reared up when the rhetoric got really ugly, and the most extreme decided to take matters into their own hands, to become the enforcers. Put another way, without the Citizens Council of the 1950s, we might not have had the Klan torture and murders of the 1960s.
This is where the rest of us come in. When they show up at highly publicized "tea parties" against "big government" and start yelling about integration and "anchor babies" and aren't turned back, it bolsters their confidence and gives them legitimacy. We must reject their barely coded racism and show that we really are a different place, not just whine that "all that's in the past" whenever someone tries to get real about race problems.
Hodding Carter III is right when he says in our cover story that our society, especially conservatives, must repudiate these beliefs rather than grab the hate votes while averting their gaze. These folks have the right to have those views and to express them, but we have the right and the responsibility to talk back.
- These people are just misunderstood. They want to integrate and accept diversity, but no one of my kind has reached out to them. I'm thinking of attending their convention. I'm going over there to reach out. Who knows I might even find a friend like Governor Stanford of South Carolina and Senator Ensign of Las Vegas did. With all these republicans gathering at this convention something immoral, lewd and lascivious will surely go on. Surely Trent Lott wouldn't be a member if these people weren't good neighbors and Christians.
If I don't come out running in 30 seconds call the law somebody.
How is it that republican can get caught cheating and lying about it, but somehow manage to keep their women when Democrats can't? Those republicans must really be romantic!
- Thank you Donna, Well said. Oh, and Walt's comment is responsible for a grin!
- Jeffery R