If you’re accused of racism in America today the “correct” thing to do is to apologize. It doesn’t matter whether the accusation is true or false, or outright laughable. Failure to apologize is proof of guilt. The apology itself is also proof of guilt, but with a difference. Once you have apologized you can begin the unending process of atonement. You’ll still be a racist, but at least you’ll be a repentant racist.
Jesse Helms, R-NC, has never apologized. He hasn’t apologized for filibustering Martin Luther King Jr. day in 1983. “Helms sponsored bills that would have banned court-ordered busing for school integration,” and he hasn’t apologized for that either. Jesse Helms didn’t even apologize for whistling “Dixie” in the presence of black Senatrix Carol Moseley Braun. Helms hasn’t apologized for racism, so he’s a racist, and since he hasn’t apologized he’s an unrepentant racist.
In 1962 James Meredith became the first black to enroll at “Ole Miss,” the University of Mississippi. It wasn’t a peaceful integration. After Meredith won a federal suit to secure his admission he was escorted to his first class by US marshals. A riot ensued which left two students dead and sixty marshals injured. Over 20,000 National Guardsmen were called out to suppress the riot. In 1989 James Meredith was hired to join the senate staff of Jesse Helms, the unrepentant racist.
Common people with common sense might think that sure, “civil rights” laws can make a racist hire a black man, but what on earth could make an unrepentant racist hire the black man who integrated Ole Miss? Those of us inclined to think such polluted thoughts might start to question the “Helms is a racist” thesis. We might even consider the testimony of those who know Helms personally and professionally.
David Broder will have none of that. The esteemed “dean” of the Washington press corps has pronounced Helms a “White Racist” in the title of a recent column. Broder evidently found a pair of cojones somewhere, because this is an uncharacteristically bold opinion for a milquetoast like him. The dear old dean writes:
“To the best of my knowledge, Helms has never done what the late George Wallace did well before his death — recant and apologize for his use of racial issues. And that use was blatant.”
“…In 1990, locked in a tight race with an African American Democrat, former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt, Helms aired a final-week TV ad that showed a pair of white hands crumpling a rejection letter, while an announcer said, ‘You needed that job and you were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota.’ Once again, he pulled through.”
Case closed — Helms aired an ad accurately describing how affirmative action works, therefore he is a racist. Further proof, if it were needed, can be readily obtained from FAIR’s media advisory “Media Downplay Bigotry of Jesse Helms.” The loony Left outfit FAIR evidently considers it fair to present an entirely lopsided account of Helms’ views on race and sex. And FAIR also notes “Helms remains unapologetic to this day.”
So far, so good. The center-Left Broder and loony-Left FAIR are on the same page. That’s the Gore and Nader voters taken care of, but what about the Bush voters, the compassionate (neo)conservatives? Here’s Michael Graham from National Review Online:
“Though you won’t see it mentioned in the media coverage of his retirement, Helms was in fact an avowed and unapologetic segregationist. As a campaign worker, he helped elect segregation candidates before his own run in 1972. Unlike neoconservatives who espouse state’s rights on principle, despite any unwanted outcomes on racial issues, Helms backed state’s rights specifically because he wanted states to have the right to segregate. If Helms’s position on 1960’s civil-rights legislation has changed since then, he hasn’t mentioned it.”
It’s a hattrick for the lynch mob. Respectable opinion — Leftist, “centrist,” and neoconservative — is agreed that Helms is an unrepentant racist. (Digression: although “neoconservative” is an accurate description of Michael Graham, given his remarks about Helms and the place of Confederate flag an even better word might be “scalawag.”)
Jesse Helms has not been the best friend a constitutional conservative or a libertarian could have, but he’s done better than most. He opposed forced integration, a federal MLK holiday, and countless socialist treaties and international accords. Best of all he’s never apologized for any of it. In a collectivist America increasingly intolerant of dissent from “respectable opinion,” that makes Helms a hero despite his faults — or perhaps because of them.
“Compromise, hell! That’s what has happened to us all down the line — and that’s the very cause of our woes. If freedom is right and tyranny is wrong, why should those who believe in freedom treat it as if it were a roll of bologna to be bartered a slice at a time?”
Daniel McCarthy [send him mail] is a graduate student in classics at Washington University in St. Louis.