Politics

What does a Klansman – like Robert Byrd – have to do to win the approval of the NAACP?

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Mike Riggs
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      Mike Riggs

      Mike Riggs is a staff writer at The Daily Caller. He has written and reported for Reason magazine and reason.com, GQ, the Awl, Decibel, Culture 11, the Philadelphia Bulletin, and the Washington City Paper, where he served as an arts and entertainment editor.

What would a Klansman have to do to gain the good favor of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)? Since its inception, the KKK has killed thousands, assaulted and maimed exponentially more, rigged elections and terrorized voters and politicians alike. “Sorry” probably wouldn’t cut it. Spending like a drunken sailor, however, might just do the trick.

At least, that’s all it took for the NAACP to abandon its race-baiting long enough to forgive former KKK leader Robert Byrd for the transgressions of his mid-20s.

On Monday the organization released a statement from NAACP President and Chief Executive Benjamin Todd Jealous claiming that Byrd’s life “reflects the transformative power of this nation.”

Jealous goes on to say that Byrd, who once asserted that it was an affront to dignity to ask white men to serve alongside blacks during World War II, “went from being an active member of the KKK to a being a stalwart supporter of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and many other pieces of seminal legislation that advanced the civil rights and liberties of our country.”

A stalwart supporter of the Civil Rights Act? Not only did Byrd vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he filibustered it for almost three months. He also opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1999, Byrd voted to increase the penalties for drug-related crimes, even thought statistics reveal that such penalties disproportionately affect African Americans. In 1997, he voted against a voucher program for D.C.; when the program passed almost a decade later despite his objections, it ended up helping African-American students in ways that the District’s failed public schools could not. Byrd also voted against granting D.C. statehood, which many D.C. residents argue would provide the District’s majority African-American population with much-needed congressional representation. And he voted against repealing the death tax, which makes it difficult for inner city residents, among others, to inherit family assets.

So what exactly did the NAACP praise Byrd for?

“He stood with us on many issues of crucial importance to our members from the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, the historic health-care legislation of 2010 and his support for the Hate Crimes Prevention legislation.”

In other words, anathemic entitlement programs and wrong-headed legal theories that weigh identical violent crimes more heavily if a perpetrator happens to have extra hate in his or her heart.

“Senator Byrd was a master of the Senate Rules, and helped strategize passage of legislation that helped millions of Americans,” the NAACP release reads. “He will be sorely missed.”