The NAACP's recent misplaced condemnation of tea party racism and the implosion of the Shirley Sherrod case have thrown an inordinate amount of attention on the foundations of racist behavior in American society.
While probably every white family has an Uncle Wally who draws shushes from Aunt Shirley at family dinners because of his griping of all the “black guys downtown,” true hard-core racism that actually has hindered, even crippled equitable racial progress throughout U.S. history can be traced not to Uncle Wally-style white conservatives, but to liberal Democrats, primarily white liberal Democrats in leadership positions, who have displayed repeated brazen acts of the most egregious forms of bigotry. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's embrace of that very Democratic Party is exceedingly difficult to comprehend.
While the Ku Klux Klan had died out by 1900, it experienced a lively resurgence under Democratic president and white supremacist Woodrow Wilson, who was fond of telling “darky” jokes in cabinet meetings and professing a deep respect for the D.W. Griffith movie “Birth of a Nation.” In fact, the Klan grew so rapidly during the Wilson administration that by 1924 the Democratic National Convention was known as a Klanbake due to the overwhelming attendance of the hooded bigots and their “O Brother Where Art Thou”-style theatrics.
Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt implemented one of the most blatant forms of racial prejudice during World War II by imprisoning more than 120,000 innocent Japanese-Americans in internment camps while ignoring the whiter German- and Italian-Americans. FDR also appointed Hugo Black to the Supreme Court, ostensibly knowing he would uphold the Japanese internment decision since his Klan affiliation was hidden until after confirmation. Republican Gerald Ford eventually rescinded FDR's executive internment order in 1976, and Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 compensating those Japanese-Americans deprived of their property and civil rights by Roosevelt.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act was a turning point in U.S. racial relations, but it was not the first; in fact, from 1866 to 1964 there were 26 major civil rights votes, and Republicans favored civil rights in 96 percent of the votes. Democrats, on the other hand, opposed them in 80 percent of the votes. On Jan. 26, 1922, Senate Democrats filibustered a House bill introduced by Rep. Leonidas Dyer, R-Mo., making lynching a federal crime.
The record Senate filibuster of the watershed 1964 vote was organized by Democrat and former Klan Exalted Cyclops Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and J. William Fulbright, D-Ark. In all, 21 Democratic senators opposed the 1964 act. It was Republican Everett Dirksen who broke the filibuster to get the legislation passed (as he had done with a similar bill in 1957) and received an accomplishment award from the NAACP for his efforts.
Also during that crucial 1956-1964 era three white Democratic governors notoriously initiated school desegregation standoffs. Arkansas's Orval Faubus, Alabama's George Wallace and Georgia's Lester Maddox all stopped the integration of schools by black students, using local and state police to block the doors. Even Bull Connor, the notorious Birmingham Public safety commissioner who turned the dogs and fire hoses on freedom marchers, was a Democrat.
More recently, Democrat white liberal icon Bill Clinton, while president, curiously sent 20,000 American troops to protect white Bosnians in 1994 but ignored the genocide of 800,000 black Rwandans at the same time. During the 2008 primaries he was quoted as telling Ted Kennedy about candidate Barack Obama “five years ago, a guy like that would be serving us coffee.” No wonder he considers Orval Faubus a hero.
Oddly, liberals are quick to forgive the racist actions of their own, claiming that like Ted Kennedy, their lifetimes of good intentions more than make up for youthful indiscretions, such as Ku Klux Klan membership, blocking civil rights or drowning an innocent young woman. Clinton brushed aside Byrd's Klan affiliations at the funeral, stating that the man was “only trying to get elected” by joining and rising up in the ranks, insinuating that hate group membership was essential to getting elected by the xenophobic, toothless and ignorant West Virginia populace.
Yet no passes are offered by these hypocritical apologists to tea party members or Republicans, who continue to be the butt of their fabricated racist allegations. Shirley Sherrod, a black woman who was exonerated of blatant racism while showing since that she is startlingly capable of a more subtle form, claimed on one of her numerous CNN appearances that conservative Andrew Breitbart wants to push America back to slavery days, ignoring the fact that is was her own Democratic Party's pro-slavery policies in 1854 that led to the creation of the Republican Party in the first place. She may have also forgotten that her husband, Charles Sherrod, was a freedom rider, who may have been hosed by Democrat Bull Conner himself.
Apparently, the NAACP conveniently overlooked the fact that it was founded in 1909 by African-American Republicans and two women's suffragists.
Obviously these Democratic and black leaders are so threatened by the tea party movement that they feel an inherent need to deflect their own party's sorry segregationist history by hurling racist accusations against more convenient, media-adversarial targets, much like the liberal “JournoList” journalists who suggested leveling racist accusations against conservatives to avert attention away from Obama's relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright during the campaign. Democrats seem unable to learn or recover from their sordid history of reckless racial animosity.
Dale Brumfield is a payroll services broker and writer who lives in Doswell.
Opinions expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.