It’s difficult at times to reconcile the lives American live with the official historical record of their lives. Particularly when it comes to issues of race in America, one would be hard pressed, even in 2010, to find a definitive history of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Civil Rights Movement. American terrorist cells like the Klu Klux Klan have been written into and out of history as both defenders of American ideals and White womanhood, and simultaneously, as the murderers and torturers of millions of their fellow Americans of differing races.
While many would prefer that history remain in the past, there are clear lines of connectedness that inform the political and social space in which we currently live.
Reconciling the two remains the looming issue.
Last modified on Wednesday, 29 December 2010 03:25
Recently, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour gave a rousing bit of commentary on the role of the White Citizens Council. Known far and wide as a white supremacist platform that intimidated and otherwise coerced Black Mississippians into second-class citizenship, the Council was hardly a gentleman’s club. Still, Barbour made a swift distinction between the Citizens Council and the Klan, and said that among uninformed Northerners, the two groups were considered to be the same.
“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,” Barbour told a New York Times reporter. “I just don’t remember it as being that bad.”
Barbour admits that the Council, comprised of local businessmen and bankers, opposed integration and often economically harassed de-segregationists, but what he failed to elaborate on was that the harassment, according to recent documentation, included rape, torture, murder, and disenfranchisement through incarceration.
Recent texts, like The Dark End of the Street, by Danielle McGuire, and Crystal Feimster’s Southern Horrors, make clear that the political and personal behavior of American politicians often run contrary to the official record or to the collective public memory.
Barbour’s revisionist diatribe is reminiscent of the claptrap many a racist has spewed in polite company over cocktails and in matter-of-fact tones. In much the same way as the late South Carolinian Gov. Strom Thurmond defended White rights and protected White womanhood, and states rights through his participation in segregationist’s politics, he never could quite reconcile this ideology with the Black girl he impregnated or the mixed-race daughter he fathered. Perhaps defending White rights included his unfettered and unrestrained access to Black womanhood.
Thurmond’s strong segregationists public politics did not factor into personal “entanglements”, nor did they prevent him from serving in the United States Senate from 1954 to April 1956 and again [after a failed bid for the U.S. Presidency] from November 1956 to January 2003.
Rumor has it that Barbour is eyeing a Presidential bid himself. He attempted to play the game by clarifying his earlier comments, by saying “nobody should construe that to mean [that] I think that the town leadership were saints, either.”
This may be the time that a White History Month be established to help White America reconcile its present to its past.