I’m way late on the Trent Lott-is-a-racist-Dixiecrat-who-doesn’t-want-to-place-his-lips-near-the-same-drinking-fountains-as-blacks theme, but better late than never.
First, check out Oliver Willis’s cool multimedia presentation on same – graphic representation is often more powerful than a welter of words alone. Oliver rocks, hard.
I won’t rehash the story, which is everywhere, but I will predict that Lott will be forced out a Majority Leader, his hole is just too deep. His words were so jarring, his apologies so passionless and perfunctory, that no one has cried “political correctness” in his defense. This is amazing if you think about it.
Reinforcing Lott’s explicit endorsement of segregation at the Thurmond tribute is the fact that HE SAID THE EXACT SAME THING 22 YEARS AGO. CNN reports:
- “You know, if we had elected this man 30 years ago, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today,” Lott was quoted as saying in an article that appeared November 3, 1980, in The Clarion-Ledger, a Jackson, Mississippi, newspaper.
Those comments came at a Jackson campaign rally for Ronald Reagan and followed a speech by Thurmond, who praised the platform that would soon put Reagan in the White House.
“Clearly Sen. Lott was expressing his support for Ronald Reagan’s policies of smaller government and fiscal responsibilities,” a statement released by Lott’s office late Tuesday said.
More important than the fate of one man – an old-school Southern racist asshole – is the shocking reminder that racism IS NOT a thing of the past, that educated, famous people in positions of power are still racist, and that the Civil War is STILL not over, 137 years later. There are still prominent, educated, popular, powerful Americans who long for an America of mint juleps and genteel cotillions for “people like us,” while the black folks sing spirituals and pick cotton out back.
And people wonder why the Confederate flag is still such an offensive, potent symbol to millions, especially black Americans? Because the war isn’t over yet. Maybe this flap will force Americans to face up to this ugly, embarrassing, atavistic reality, and finally deal with it in an open manner: you can’t put something in the past when it isn’t past.
Let us throw Trent Lott on the political funeral pyre not because he violated unspoken rules about public propriety – let us fry his well-coiffed ass because what he believes is still preventing us from becoming the kind of people we like to think we are.