Throughout his governorship, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, has had a history of faux pas when it comes to racial matters.
Most recently, he has refused to condemn a proposal to honor Nathan Bedford Forrest, the former Confederate general and leader of the Ku Klux Klan, with a license plate. Forrest led the 1864 massacre of Black Union troops at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, but is celebrated by some as a great military strategist. The local NAACP chapter has denounced the move, as have other progressive forces in the state. Thus far, Gov. Barbour, who’s never been ashamed of his “Southern heritage,” has yet to join the NAACP in their denouncement of the proposal, and it remains to be seen if he will.
Barbour, a contender for the Republican nomination for the 2012 presidential election, has also made controversial statements concerning the White Citizen’s Council. Barbour told the Weekly Standard, “Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders.”
While the White Citizen’s Council wasn’t known to don white sheets and go out and lynch Black people, their use of economic and political pressure was just as effective as their more violent counterparts in the Klan. To his credit, Barbour tried to distance himself from the remarks, claiming that his quotes were taken out of context.
He has also callously dismissed criticism of Virginia’s celebration of Confederate History Month, which made no mention of slavery, as “no big deal.” It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in history to know that slavery was a key issue for the Confederacy. I learned that in elementary history class.
Keep in mind that this man may be the Republican nominee for president in 2012. Given his lack of historical memory and seemingly racial insensitivity, should he be president? In the immortal words of Homie the Clown: I don’t think so!
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