05 Mar 2001 Where’s the Outrage Over Robert Byrd? Group Decries Racist Remark by Liberal Lawmaker
In the wake of the racist remark made by senior Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, members of the African-American leadership network Project 21 are concerned by the lack of spirited criticism by the civil rights establishment of the senator’s statement in comparison to their treatment of conservatives and then-presidential candidate George W. Bush on matters of race.
Senator Byrd was interviewed by Fox News Sunday host Tony Snow in a segment that aired on March 4. While expanding on his comment that race relations are now "much, much better than they’ve been in my lifetime," Byrd made reference to whites who are still opposed to equal civil rights by saying, "There are white niggers. I’ve seen a lot of white niggers in my time; I’m going to use that word." He later issued a statement apologizing for his remark.
While NAACP President Kweisi Mfume denounced Byrd’s comments as "repulsive," the comments have not generated the same degree of criticism previously reserved for conservatives.
"I couldn’t believe what I was reading," said Project 21 member S. Kevin Washington. "Senator Byrd’s comments were first brought to my attention via voice mail from a personal friend. I had not heard it on a national news broadcast; not NPR; not outcries of disgust by well-known black faces around America. The same people who castigated Republicans – President Bush, in particular – as racist now give Byrd a pass for his using the word ‘nigger’ just because he’s a Democrat like them. What a bunch of nonsense."
House Majority Leader Dick Armey recently asked to meet with the NAACP’s Mfume to discuss stopping a trend Armey calls "Racial McCarthyism or reverse race-baiting." Armey wrote: "[I]t has become an all too common practice to spread unfounded, racially charged falsehoods against Republicans for political advantage. Deliberate or not, if left unchallenged, this practice will continue to divide our nation, polarize our political parties and do untold harm in the lives of real people who are unjustly accused of conspiracy against the civil rights of African-Americans."
Project 21 members are concerned that the NAACP, which spent millions against then-presidential candidate George W. Bush – focusing on false allegations that his decision not to sign a specific hate crimes bill (Texas already had one) led to the death of James Byrd – is doing little to criticize the intentionally offensive comments of liberal Senator Byrd. Such contrasts give the impression that the group is unfairly pulling its punches when dealing with racist behavior on the part of liberal politicians.
"I think the way Robert Byrd’s racist comments were treated is typical of our current civil rights leadership," said Project 21 member Kevin Martin. "Groups like the NAACP have become nothing more than liberal mouthpieces. They seem beholden to liberal interests and, in this case, will simply issue a statement to make it look like they’re doing something. They must hold the Democrats to the same standards they’ve held Republicans lest it become apparent that they’ve sold their souls – and credibility – to the liberal cause."
Project 21 has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x106 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.