Monday, July 7, 2008

Jesse Helms and Playing the Robert Byrd Card

Ta-Nehisi Coates laid out why black people aren't down with the Republican party. A commenter attempted to reference the Democratic Party's own racist past. But Coates, in a comment, smacked her down:

Your premise is flawed. It compares the racist past of Democrats with the racist past AND present of Republicans. Obviously those two aren't the same thing. The point isn't that, in the past, Republicans have had racists among them--it's that they still have racists among them whom they venerate.

People don't begrudge Robert Byrd for being in the Klan, because he's repeatedly apologized for it. Helms, never once, apologized for being a segregationist. Jerry Falwell lauded apartheid in the 1980s--not in the 1960s. That Moseley-Braun episode happened in the 90s, not in the 60s. Trent Lott lauded the segregationist platform of Strom Thurmond this decade, not three decades ago.

Meanwhile George Wallace, not only recanted his segregationist views, but actually appointed a record number of blacks in his last term. Anyone can be a bigot, because bigotry is at its root, simply ignorance. But to revel in it, to make your bigotry just is dishonest and dishonorable.

Furthermore, the "Democrats are racist too" defense is weak, as it simply changes the subject. Either venerating Helms is wrong or it isn't. Saying the Dems have bigots among them is a dodge that doesn't answer the charge.