Thursday, June 23, 2005

Mississippi Sneering 

A few days ago, I wrote about Senator Byrd's recent attempts to whitewash (no pun intended) the Klan to justify his youthful involvement in that organization. As becomes of anything that touches upon "the Conscience of the Senate", the media has generally been pretty receptive and unquestioning of Byrd's version of history. For myself, I enjoyed the debate that ensued in the comments section, though was amazed at some emails I received in response, such as this one:
God Bless Robert Byrd and the KKK to which he once proudly belonged. Here is a man of dignity who wasn't afraid to embrace his white heritage. Too many Americans today act almost embarrassed to be white. You should be proud! Bring back the KKK, maybe they could help save America from the jewish [sic] domination under which we now all suffer.
I hasten to add that it wasn't from a regular reader of this blog but from somebody who followed a link to my post from AOL.

The MSM, which considers Byrd a man of dignity, but for different reasons, is far readier to give the Democrat Senator a benefit of the doubt than they are to some Southern communities, if stories like this one are anything to go by:

"The Washington Post"'s Neely Tucker has recently returned on an anthropological expedition to her home state of Mississippi to watch the conclusion of the trail of Edgar Ray Killen, the KKK scum, now found guilty of involvement in killings of three conservative civil rights activists in 1964, a shameful episode immortalised in "Mississippi Burning" (has Gene Hackman ever had a bad performance?).

On the hustings in the infamous Neshoba County, Tucker discovers that
there was a multiracial coalition that pushed for the trial, for closure, for what might be called racial reconciliation. They were truly admirable people.

But there was also a lot of apathy and surly attitudes. Whites tended to be exasperated -— almost all of them I spoke to, no matter their age, resented how they were portrayed in the national media, as if the media had somehow made them the victims in all this.
Tucker's piece being the perfect example of the sort of national media portrayal that white Neshobites are so resentful of:
They got Edgar Ray. Not the black people he so detests. Not the reporters from New York and Washington and London, whom he loves to taunt and threatens to shoot. Not the card-carrying ACLU commies.

No, it was Edgar Ray Killen's Neshoba County neighbors -— conservative white folk who vote Republican in overwhelming numbers - who dropped the hammer on him in the Philadelphia, Miss., courthouse.
Oh my God, they'’re... conservative... they'’re... white... and they... they... they vote Republican... in overwhelming numbers... And yet those weird, horrible people still managed to unanimously convict a KKK murderer. How can this be? A shock to Tucker's system.

It seems that people in the Neshoba County have moved on in the past 40 years, away from the Democratic Party which still dominated the Southern politics in the 1960s, away from the Klan which used to have many local sympathisers, away from the widespread racism and bigotry. Sadly, the mainstream media has not moved on from their favorite stereotypes of all Southerners as white rednecks ready to lynch the nearest African-American at a drop of a (white) hat.

And so, Neely Tucker is astounded that a jury of nine whites and three blacks had no problem in coming to terms with the County's dark past and convicted one of their own, their "neighbour." What did Tucker think it was - Los Angeles?

While grudgingly admitting "But guilty, they said", Tucker then bemoans the fact that "It wasn't pretty. It wasn't textbook" because the jury convicted Killen on manslaughter instead of murder, but then quotes the prosecuting attorney:
"It's not a perfect verdict, but it wasn't a perfect case, either," Mark Duncan, the local district attorney who prosecuted the case along with the state attorney general, said at a televised news conference after the verdict.

"Of the four people testifying against Mr. Killen, three of them were dead. ... I'm not going to criticize" the jury. It's a fair legal point, and also a fair cultural one. There was no physical evidence linking Killen to the crime, nor was there any testimony that he was present when the young men were killed. Most of the testimony was from Klan informants who had been paid for their court appearances by the FBI. If you're looking for reasonable doubt, that is something to hang your hat on, and not just in Mississippi.
Not wanting to harp too much on this point, but LA juries were known to acquit on evidence ten times stronger than this. Maybe it's time to cut "the conservative, churchgoing white population" some slack? Maybe it's the blue states that are increasingly at odds with the mainstream of the country?


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