Flipping Racial Minorities the Byrd

A racist — the joke goes — is a Republican winning an argument with a Democrat. Indeed, social progressives shoot down any preference for less government and more liberty as racially-motivated. Think the government is spending too much money? Then you must be a racist. Oppose fascist medicine? Racist. Attend a Tea Party? Those were just a visceral reaction to the election of our country’s first black president… because most Americans — especially the kind that watch Fox News — are racists.

The MSNBC crowd acts as if anyone who disagrees with their fiscal policy or jurisprudence must have a white hood in their closet, but the recent death of U.S. Senator and former KKK member Robert Byrd — a Democrat — highlights the truth about racism and partisan politics in the United States. As Scott Johnson notes in an article at The Power Line Blog, the Democratic Party has its own long and ugly history “as the party of slavery, segregation, and opposition to the equal treatment of blacks,” a history, I would add, that Democrats are all too willing to quietly sweep under the rug.

To read Robert Byrd’s shining tribute in the New York Times and compare it to the same journalist’s treatment of Strom Thurmond at his death seven years earlier is to witness a major league spectacle of leftist racial hypocrisy at work. The 2003 article was entitled, “Strom Thurmond, Foe of Integration, Dies at 100,” characterizing the Republican by his opposition to federally-mandated racial integration of public schools, but the 2010 article was entitled, “Robert Byrd, Respected Voice of the Senate, Dies at 92.”

The same columnist at the same newspaper makes no mention in his title of Senator Byrd’s membership in a white supremacist group known for its organized campaign of domestic terrorism against blacks, or his leadership role in it as an “Exalted Cyclops” who organized a “klavern” of 150 members, or his filibustering of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as a U.S. Senator. How much money would you be willing to bet that if Senator Byrd had an (R) next to his name, that his article would have been entitled, “Robert Byrd, Former Klansman and Civil Rights Opponent, Dies at 92”?

While Strom Thurmond’s piece dives in with references to his controversial past in the very first sentence, readers don’t see a thing about Robert Byrd’s history of hate until after suffering through fifteen belabored paragraphs of gushing praise for the man’s humble roots, long career in the U.S. Congress, history of championing legislative power, deft manipulation of Federal funds into the hands of his constituents, and love of classic literature.

Then in paragraph sixteen the New York Times columnist finally makes a grudging effort to approximate objective journalism by actually mentioning Byrd’s racist history, but he starts by defending, polishing, and explaining away Byrd’s sins before even reminding the reader what those sins are. His first words on the subject are: “Mr. Byrd’s perspective on the world changed over the years. He filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and supported the Vietnam War only to come to back civil rights measures and criticize the Iraq war.”

So he’s bad, but he’s not that bad. He once was lost, but now he’s found. Never mind that Republicans are expected to spend their entire lives in the shadow of sins they never committed, repenting for a racism that most of them are not guilty of- actually being a card-carrying member, more than that, even a leader in the KKK itself, is something the New York Times is willing to brush aside for the gentleman from West Virginia… because he’s a Democrat.

What troubles me the most about the New York Times piece is how casually it treats Byrd’s time in the Klan. The newspaper of record’s litany of Strom Thurmond’s racist policies makes up the better part of that article and its disapproval for his past racism is tangible. By contrast, the piece on Robert Byrd does everything but actually come out and say, “Yeah, the Senator used to be a member of the KKK, but that’s not really a big deal.”

It is a big deal though. It is a big deal for every victim of racial terrorism, violence, and intimidation. It is a big deal for every person of color who lives in the shadow of white racism. It is a big deal for a nation that bears deep and still-healing racial wounds. Any column that shamefully brushes aside and downplays the significance of something like leadership in a violent white supremicist group, does a disservice to our nation’s racial minorities.

A stint with the Klan is not simply an incidental rung on a career ladder, that can be atoned for and erased with enough apologies and allegiance of course, to the right party. The New York Times would have you believe that Byrd’s time in the Klan was more about honing his leadership skills than it was about race, as if he may as well have been community organizing, but Robert Byrd is the man who said:

I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side… Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.

And wrote in a letter to a Grand Wizard of the Klan stating that: “The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia and in every state in the nation.” Upon his death, the New York Times enthusiastically canonized the author of those words, and in so doing proved that progressives love the Democratic Party more than they hate racism.

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