Haley Barbour Backtracks, Calls Citizens Councils’ Racism ‘Indefensible’
December 21, 2010
(ChattahBox Political News)–Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), aka, “Boss Hog” has decided that maybe the segregationist White Citizens’ Council of his youth in Yazoo City, Mississippi was maybe not a benign group of gentlemanly “town leaders” after all. After receiving an avalanche of criticism from both sides of the political spectrum, for his racial insensitivity and revisionist history of the Civil Rights era in the Old South in the 50s and 60s, Barbour issued a clarification to Politico. After describing the segregated South as, not “being that bad,” Barbour released a statement recognizing that African Americans were in fact “persecuted in that time.”
Barbour also condemned the White Citizens’ Councils, as “indefensible” in his carefully crafted statement.
“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.”
Is it enough? I can’t imagine it is. This is not the first time Barbour has engaged in revisionist history about racial segregation and Civil Rights in the South. And Barbour has also sought the political support of the modern-day version of the Citizens’ Councils, called the Council of Conservative Citizens.
The neo-Confederate group’s statement of principles, opposes “all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called “affirmative action” and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.”
Barbour attended an event sponsored by the Council of Conservative Citizens in 2003, and until recently his photo was on the group’s website.
The earlier White Citizens’ Councils that Barbour praised as a group that kept Klan violence out of his town, were essentially Klansmen in suits and ties. They were formed soon after Brown vs. Board of Education to make sure segregation remained in place by using economic intimidation and harassment.
Black people who tried to organize, who registered to vote, who demanded to be served in white-owned restaurants or be admitted to white schools, were fired from their jobs, thrown out of their homes, and their businesses were destroyed. The White Citizens’ Councils didn’t have to resort to violence, they used economic terrorism instead.
Council members called supporters of integration Mongrelizers. Take a look at old Citizens’ Council newsletters and you will instantly get a sense of the odious racism of the movement.
“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,” said Barbour in his Weekly Standard interview.
Looking back on his early years in the segregated South, as part of a privileged politically connected white family, I’m sure the Civil Rights era was not “that bad,” for Barbour. But it sure sucked if you were black. And for Barbour to be oblivious to that fact makes him an unsuitable presidential candidate.