On the Rachel Maddow Show last night, columnist Melissa Harris-Perry discussed the possible implications of the recent comments from Mississippi governor, and likely presidential candidate, Haley Barbour, who praised the role of Citizens Councils in desegregating his hometown of Yazoo City, Mississippi and said of the civil rights struggle, “I just don’t remember it being that bad.”
The Citizens Councils were set up in response to Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision that declared that having segregated public schools was unconstitutional, as a group that would fight to keep schools separate.
Of course, the next day Barbour completely walked back his comments, calling Citizens Councils “totally indefensible, as is segregation.”
What do comments like these mean in the larger context? What do they say about our current politics and the Republican party especially? That’s where Melissa Harris-Perry comes in.
“I do think that there are some real dangers here that we need to pause and be careful about. One is that, someone who is being this extreme about race, and it really is extreme to be romantic about segregation and about Jim Crow, can make an awful lot of room for folks who have very similar policy ideas, but simply do a better job of talking race. And most clearly that is Mike Huckabee. So, you know, Mike Huckabee talks about race probably better than any other candidate in the ’08 elections. I mean, really only maybe Barack Obama during the Philadelphia speech and John Edwards with his Two Americas, but, other than that, Mike Huckabee is kind of the straight-shooting southern white man who can talk about racial history. The fact is, though, that when you looked at his policies, in the contemporary moment, they are not that dramatically different than that of Haley Barbour’s. And yet, my bet is that this kind of extremism on the right makes an awful lot of room for somebody like Huckabee to come right on through the centre-right.”
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