>CNN political contributor Roland has done it again–another great opinion. Since the death of former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms, we’ve all seen obituaries and outright praise for the former Dixie-loving, unapologetic racist politician.
According to this CNN.com article, President Bush called him a “kind, decent, and humble man”:
“Throughout his long public career, Sen. Jesse Helms was a tireless advocate
for the people of North Carolina, a stalwart defender of limited government and
free enterprise, a fearless defender of a culture of life, and an unwavering
champion of those struggling for liberty.”
According to Martin’s commentary, other leaders have praised Sen. Helms for his service. However, these leaders tend to gloss over Helms’ apparent dislike for African-Americans.
Even the Rev. Billy Graham, often called “America’s pastor,” honored Helms in a 174-word statement, ending it by saying that folks “honor his legendary life and extraordinary legacy.”
I tend to agree with Martin’s assessment. Even with the death of Ronald Reagan, friends and media personalities downplayed his appearance in Philadelphia, Miss., to kick off his 1980 presidential campaign.
But to recognize Helms properly in his totality, it’s important to add to the list of words and phrases to describe the unapologetic conservative Republican: unabashedly racist.
It’s easy in this age to say that Helms, who carried his dislike of African- Americans like a badge of honor for 30 years around the U.S. Senate, was a son of the South who was simply honoring good, old-fashioned Southern values. But when you stand in opposition to a bill that would, for the first time, give African-Americans from border to border the constitutionally guaranteed right to cast a vote, then I refuse to call you a stand-up person for the rights of every man, woman and child.
And don’t try to suggest that because Helms hired several African-Americans in his office that he was still a good and decent guy who was misunderstood. No, he was very clear in how he looked at issues, and if you had the wrong skin color, sorry, but you didn’t fully count as an American.
While I was somewhat sad for the Helms’ family to lose their patriarch, I will not go as far as to call him a stand-up guy. I will not praise anyone who believed people with my features and my skin color are inferior and do not deserve the same rights as the majority of folks in this country.
With the death of a public official, the public and media tends to whitewash past behaviors and positions as merely living “in their times.” They hold them up as icons to followers of their ideology when they are actually pandering to the most extreme points of view to garner votes. These politicians, often too chicken to take a stand, continue to promote bigotry and hate in their constituents’ hearts. These politicians thrive on the fear and fringe beliefs of their constituents to promote their ideals.
So, no. Men like Jesse Helms aren’t stand-up guys. They are mere opportunists.
What do you think?