Mississippi Governor’s Remarks On Slavery Appalling

April 14, 2010

You could have been forgiven for dropping your orange juice Sunday morning listening to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s remarks during an interview with CNN reporter Candy Crowley.

When Ms. Crowley asked the governor whether it was a mistake for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to omit slavery from a proclamation declaring "Confederate History Month," Gov. Barbour airily dismissed such qualms as mere trivia.

"I don’t know what you would say about slavery, but anybody that thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing, I think that goes without saying," he said on CNN’s "State of the Union."

"To me, it’s a sort of feeling that it’s a nit, that it is not significant, that it’s … trying to make a big deal out of something

[that] doesn’t amount to diddly," he said.

A nit?

There are many ways to characterize slavery. "Nit" is not the word that comes to mind.

Parts of the South have long referred to the Civil War with such labels as the "Late, Great Unpleasantness," or "The War of Northern Aggression," both ridiculous euphemisms that are easy to dismiss. But let there be no rewriting of history when it comes to slavery, or the true origins of the Civil War. Slavery was an atrocity. The Confederacy fought for the right to keep people as property, and in so doing regarded them with no more humanity or rights than a chair or a table.

Keeping slavery out of the discussion of the Confederacy is like declaring "German Military History Month" and ignoring the Holocaust. These remarks from a governor of Mississippi, a state which has a higher percentage of African Americans (38 percent) in its population than any other state, are a disgrace.

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