Update @ 3:25p: And of course today we get Gov. Barbour’s I’m-not-a-racist apology for rewriting history, this time. Proof enough that he’ll be running for president in 2012:
“When asked why my hometown in Mississippi did not suffer the same racial violence when I was a young man that accompanied other towns’ integration efforts, I accurately said the community leadership wouldn’t tolerate it and helped prevent violence there. My point was my town rejected the Ku Klux Klan, but nobody should construe that to mean I think the town leadership were saints, either. Their vehicle, called the ‘Citizens Council,’ is totally indefensible, as is segregation. It was a difficult and painful era for Mississippi, the rest of the country, and especially African Americans who were persecuted in that time.”
It’s the holidays, and it’s hard to summon the energy to argue that, yes, the sky is blue. But here we are. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a presidential aspirant and outgoing chair of the Republican Governors Association, has stirred a fuss this week by making a series of outlandish claims about how race was lived during American apartheid in his home town of Yazoo City, Miss. Among other plain, bald lies, Barbour asserts in a Weekly Standard interview that the era’s White Citizens Councils were not rebranded KKK chapters—a fact they made little effort to conceal—but rather were just a sort of chamber of commerce. Here’s Barbour:
You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you’d lose it. If you had a store, they’d see nobody shopped there. We didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.
Barbour goes as far as asserting that he attended a 1962 speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., and describes it as a peaceful nonevent. That’s the same Mississippi of Emmett Till, executed civil rights workers and the Freedom Summer. Of that Mississippi, Barbour says, “I just don’t remember it as being that bad.” Tell it to the families of the people your parents’ peers lynched and raped.
The American right long ago proved it could care less about facts, let alone truth. But southern conservatives always go the extra mile when trying to downplay the barbarity this country has unleashed on generations of black people. The governor’s assertion is not new. Since slavery, southern white aristocrats have argued that those northern troublemakers make things sound worse than they are. And when people came south to see for themselves, they got murdered.
Barbour himself has never been afraid to stand in public and tell black people to go to hell. This April, he went into overdrive rewriting history. First, he strode into a Southern Republican Leadership Conference meeting, held in New Orleans of all places, and thanked the Bush administration for its handling of Katrina, arguing it got “a very bad rap” and had been “very generous.” Days later, he took to CNN to defend Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s revival of the state’s Confederate history celebration, voided of any mention of slavery. Barbour argued slavery “goes without mention.”
Yes, when you’re trying to rewrite history, it sure does. And they rewrite history in an effort to repeat it. Anyway, here’s Rachel Maddow correcting the historical record last night. I’m going back to reality land with my family.