Dear Chairman White:
Sen. Lydia Chassaniol's enthusiastic participation in the recent annual conference of the Council of Conservative Citizens calls attention to a problem that is much bigger, and much more dangerous, than one state senator.
Earlier today, three experienced activists asked me why I was singling out Sen. Chassaniol when so many white legislators, of both parties, sympathize with the Council's ideology. One of my mentors went so far as to say that nobody who had ever spent time working at the Capitol could be truly surprised by what this one senator did.
These activists have a point. Even if Sen. Chassaniol were to apologize and resign her committee chairmanship in shame right now, this morning, it would not solve the more fundamental problem of racism in Mississippi politics. It is real, it is thriving, and it is fundamental to voting patterns in our state.
But it's also quiet. And I've noticed something about quiet movements, Chairman White: They wither on the wine. I am not as experienced as some activists, but I have seen how weak a movement can be when it is silent and marginalized from mainstream politics, and I have seen how powerful a movement can suddenly become when people raise their voices and get some support from mainstream politicians.
The Council of Conservative Citizens, created from the pathetic ashes of the old White Citizen's Council, used to be a force in Mississippi politics. The annual Blackhawk event, held in Sen. Chassaniol's own Carroll County, was emceed by the CofCC's infamous Bill Lord and raised money for segregated academies in the area. For a long time, gubernatorial candidates of both parties spoke there and had to speak there.
But something happened to the Council: 10 years ago, Sen. Trent Lott called it "racist and white supremacist," and Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson asked all Republicans to disassociate themselves from it. Since then, it has dwindled and lost influence, slowly drifting toward political oblivion. It doesn't deserve a second act.
Regardless of what you say or don't say to Sen. Chassaniol, the Council deserves the condemnation of the Mississippi Republican Party. More importantly, the MRP deserves to stand for something better than secondhand Dixiecrat frustration. If you allow the Mississippi Republican Party to come across as the organization that segregationists flee to when the Democrats don't want them anymore, you are only undoing the hard work that so many Republicans, white and black, have put into making the Republican Party an institution that bona fide conservative Mississippians of all races can support.
The danger that Sen. Chassaniol's participation in the Council's national conference poses is that it might inspire other public officials to openly support the CofCC. This is not in the best interests of either party, and it is not in the best interests of our state.
Please make a public statement against the Council and its execrable agenda, and ask that Republican candidates and elected officials avoid the white separatist movement like the plague that all Mississippians of good will know it to be.
Thank you for your time.