June 28, 2003

That 100-year-old dead white racist guy

Charles G. Hill at Dustbury.com has the most even-handed and, to my mind, the best statement on the late Strom Thurmond. Charles brings personal experience and a certain maturity to what has become a minor blogville shriek-o-fest, what with the many self-righteous cries on one side of "Good riddance, burn in hell you racist!" (in the comments) and of "How dare you speak ill of Strom Thurmond, he was a great man, I'm delinking you so there!" on the other (in the post and the comments).

Here is my personal viewpoint of the matter: I don't know what his recent senate voting record was like, but I am pretty sure that he had stopped voting in favor of segregation some time ago. Sure, we have yahoos like Trent Lott who slipped up and basically admitted that they yearned for the good old days when Thurmond was in his prime and darkies knew their place. And I have the feeling that many of his constituents kept voting him into office out of nostalgia for that halcyon time when an illiterate white farmboy could openly consider himself superior to a black man with a college degree. But did Thurmond still hold those views? I have no idea -- I am pretty sure he didn't do so openly, though. I think it was a disgrace that someone so old and (at least physically) doddering should not have retired after a certain age -- say, before he needed two aides to hold him up all the time. I don't say this out of revulsion for old age. In many ways his refusal to retire had something of that present-day, in-your-face attitude that everyone seems to have -- a certain truculent refusal to take the other person into consideration because the universe revolves around me! me! me!

But I don't know that his current senatorial record isn't enough to offset the damage his segregation-era congressional career did. I do wonder at the wisdom of cursing people for what they did in their past, and disregarding anything they may have done in the present to make up for it. We talk a great deal about wanting to "heal" the wounds of racism, and of reforming racists, but what might a racist think when he sees this sort of thing? If we have given up on the lasting value of reform, what are we going to do instead, execute them?

Updated to add: this (the pertinent phrase is here if you don't want to read any more hosannas to St. Strom) is why I decided to make my blogroll private, by the way. The public, showy act of linking and delinking is just so much evidence that the internet is one big middle school. I was a misanthropic outsider who refused to participate in the shenanigans then, and I might as well be one now.

Update further: can it now be told -- was Strom Thurmond really a member of the Legions of the Undead? Zombie or vampire -- you make the call! (Come to think of it, he did resemble David Bowie's character in The Hunger, just before that character's demise. Hmmm.

Posted by Andrea Harris at June 28, 2003 03:29 PM

Nice post, Andrea.

My grandparents are long dead, but I can remember one or the other saying things that by today's standards were racist, but they'd adapted as well as they could to times that had changed drastically since they were kids. I know they didn't have a mean bone in their bodies, and would probably be horrified to think that they were racist.

I think there's something to be said for trying to change, and trying to make up for things we've done in the past that we now realize were wrong.

Some of what I've heard about Thurmond is that once he accepted times had changed, he followed through. I read a post on the Corner that said he was one of first Senators to hire Black staffers, and voted for the Civil Rights act. To tell the truth, I don't know much about him, but he was probably a mix of things like most of us are.

I have no idea what kind of a senator he was, other than he was one for a looong time!

Sorry, didn't mean that to be so long!

Posted by: Ith at June 28, 2003 at 04:07 PM

We talk a great deal about wanting to "heal" the wounds of racism, and of reforming racists, but what might a racist think when he sees this sort of thing? If we have given up on the lasting value of reform, what are we going to do instead, execute them?

Yes. Thank you very much. May I quote you?

As for the de-linking stuff: people do what people do. I agree that it's a bit much at times. But then again, I didn't discover Michele Catalano until a bunch of people publicly de-linked her, and now she's one of my favorites. So, you know, there's value in everything. ;-)

Posted by: Dean Esmay at June 28, 2003 at 11:05 PM

What, Andrea, you don't like politicians who think they're the center of the Universe? What other kind is there?

I leave the moral for the reader to draw.

Posted by: Francis W. Porretto at June 29, 2003 at 08:58 AM

Andrea, you are a sane person.

Posted by: Alisa at June 29, 2003 at 02:33 PM

How many of those dancing over the "death of a racist" have recently praised Robert Byrd? Not all of them, I'm sure, but...

Posted by: Robert Crawford at June 30, 2003 at 02:43 PM