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Did Barbour Hurt Himself In TWS Story?

December 20, 2010
tags: 2012 President, Haley Barbour
by Brett

In the Haley Barbour piece in The Weekly Standard that we touched on this morning, a couple comments seemed to have gained the most attention, both related to integration and the civil rights movement.

When asked why Yazoo City didn’t have the violence many other Southern towns did, Barbour responded with this: “Because the business community wouldn’t stand for it. 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.”

And when Barbour was talking about growing up during the civil rights movement, he said: “I just don’t remember it as being that bad. I remember Martin Luther King came to town, in ’62. He spoke out at the old fairground and it was full of people, black and white.”

There are a couple issues here:

1) I think Barbour is guilty of apathy here. The “not bad” comment was probably geared toward what he saw in Yazoo City compared to what everyone else saw on the news (and what we read in the history books today). But at the same, Barbour was like a lot of other whites especially of his age. They might not have been marching with Martin Luther King, but they weren’t marching with the Klan either. Barbour admits it himself: when King came to town he was chasing girls. I honestly don’t think that’s too unusual, and don’t think Barbour can be knocked for that too much.

I imagine the “not bad” comments will be taken out of context to argue that’s how he was describing the entire civil rights era, but a thorough reading of the article should tell you otherwise.

2) The glorification of the CC is harder to explain. Politico’s Ben Smith used the phrase “soft mythologizing” to potentially describe where Barbour is coming from, and very quickly others dug up stories that paint a less than pretty picture of the CC in Yazoo City.

3) For Barbour, one of the best politicians in the game, it is very interesting- and curious- as to why he is still tripping over the issue. Race is going to come up with any Mississippi Republican who approaches a national level. But Barbour, someone who has spent many years in Washington, knows that things read differently in D.C. than they do in Jackson.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Republican Dawg permalink
    December 20, 2010 4:28 pm

    Barbour didn’t give the PC response and I’m sure he’ll pay although I don’t know if any one besides liberal journalist are concerned. I can see them now at their Christmas winter solstice parties talking about how high and mighty they are unlike us dumb rednecks in Mississippi; and then they head home to their all white neighborhood…

  2. Jimmy permalink
    December 20, 2010 4:57 pm

    Maybe if Barbour started a chapter of the Klan like a good Democrat he would get more praise today.

  3. win permalink
    December 20, 2010 5:09 pm

    Barbour must not have gotten the memo that anyone that supported any type of segregation was evil incarnate and can do no good.

    Perhaps we should just bomb the South again to make them pay for their evil, history.

    I am from the North, and I suggest bomb both the South and the North. Both are evil incarnate, and the South is not one bit worse then the North, nor the white one bit worse then the black.

    Either make a country or don’t, but if you can’t stop fighting about it, then have a war instead. At least that shows respect for the other side that you consider them a threat.

  4. Sharpener permalink
    December 21, 2010 2:45 am

    All anyone is saying that anyone who chooses to discuss that era in a serious platform like The Weekly Standard should familiarize themselves with it and make sure that they understand what they’re talking about. Mr. Barbour might not have known about the real history of his Citizens Councils, but the information is freely available at any public library or on the Internet.

  5. sippydog permalink
    December 21, 2010 10:40 am

    I think it’s an incorrect interpretation to say he he was glorifying the CC with his comments any more than he was suggesting the entire Civil Rights era was “not bad”. The way I read the piece was as a personal interpretation of the times. For godsakes he was 15 years old!

    I grew up in Yazoo. My grandfather was a farmer, a businessman, a Supervisor and was active in the community. I saw first hand as a child during the seventies how he had to come to grips with the changes in race relations that were occurring all around us. The black farmhands that worked for my family were not allowed in my granparents house to eat at the table with the rest of us, even though they were fed from my grandmother’s kitchen. I know from discussions with them–the inquiries of a curious child–that they wouldn’t have been comfortable going inside. They understood there were traditional walls that had been built, and they, nor my grandfather were comfortable in being the ones to tear them down. Having said that, the black workers were always shown respect, even if there was inequality. My grandfather didn’t hate them, nor they him. It was just the way they had all been taught the world worked. Coming to grips with that new reality in the real world was and still is tough for people of both races, and it requires all to move outside a comfort zone. You still see that today as both races self segregate in church and neighborhoods . That wall is slowly coming down too. But, it won’t happen overnight.

    The people in the CC of the time Haley is referring were the same kind of guys as my grandfather. I don’t know that my grandfather was part of the CC, but he very well could have been. They were muddling through a tough time, and trying to maintain the traditions they had been taught, but at the same time addressing injustices from the generation before. I don’t do things exactly the way my Dad would do them, because I am coming to grips with life in a different world. The same is true of us all. We take what traditions we are given, and either accept them or tweak them to a new reality. Not all the men that were members of the CC were evil people. Misled, maybe, but not evil.
    No matter how hard society looks for people to blame or praise, history is rarely so tidy.

  6. From The Coast... permalink
    December 21, 2010 11:24 am

    I just find it interesting that the media is now interested in one’s past. Haley needs to learn the phrase I can’t be responsible for what someone did when I was 8 years old. Works like a charm….

  7. olemissgop permalink
    December 24, 2010 12:25 am

    The problem is that this is the race card or the trump card if you will. He will be held responsible for this in just the same way that he would be held responsible for a murder at eight years old. Sad but true. It would be much more beneficial to talk about his view on race now not 50 years ago. If this is all the liberals can find on him regarding race, I’d say he has done a fairly good job of managing race relations.

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