Moral Low Ground

US Government

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour Praises Racist Group

(Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, a Republican (what else?), says life wasn’t so bad growing up during the tumultuous days of the Civil Rights movement. Duh. That’s because he’s white. Barbour, who conservative Bible The Weekly Standard calls “Mississippi’s favorite son,” grew up in Yazoo City, a town seething with so much racial tension that the schools there weren’t integrated until the 1970s.

Yet Barbour says things weren’t that bad there. There was no problem with the Ku Klux Klan, he points out, and that may be true. There was, however, a problem with a group called the White Citizens Council, which was a sort of KKK in suits and ties instead of white robes and hoods. The  white supremacist group was founded just after the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, that outlawed racially segregated schools.

Governor Barbour says the White Citizens Council was the reason why race relations were so “good” in Yazoo City. “Up north they think it was like the KKK,” he lamented. “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.”

But the White Citizens Council dedicated itself to opposing civil rights for blacks and strongly opposed integrating schools. While it is true that the group opposed the violence of the KKK, they favored economic warfare against “nigger lovers.”

Later, the White Citizens Council changed its name to the Citizens’ Councils of America. During his 2003 gubernatorial campaign, Barbour appeared in a photo at an event sponsored by the Council of Conservative Citizens, an offshoot group of this racist organization. The photo appeared on their website next to a piece supporting a neo-Nazi.

Still, Governor Barbour and his supporters claim he’s not a racist. He even says he attended a speech by Martin Luther King back in 1962, although he doesn’t remember what the civil rights legend said that day. “We were sort of out there on the periphery. We just sat on our cars, watching the girls, talking, doing what boys do. We paid more attention to the girls than to King.”

Governor Barbour is expected to seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 2012.

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