(This post is part of a series concerning Curtis Flowers, an innocent man convicted of a horrific crime that has divided a small Mississippi town. Information on the Flowers case can be found here.)
Lydia Chassaniol is in trouble. How much trouble remains to be seen, but the Mississippi State Senator (R-Winona) has the regional blogosphere in an uproar.
Remember the mid-to-late 1990s when prominent Mississippi politicians like Bob Barr and Trent Lott got too cozy with the Council of Conservative Citizens? That’s the white separatist hate group the New York Times describes as having “a thinly-veiled white supremacist agenda”. You can buy a “white pride” T-shirt on the CCC website and read headlines like: “The whole world treats Obama as a joke!” and “Mass immigration equals white genocide.”
The CCC platform praises America’s “European” heritage and condemns “mixture of the races”. CCC leaders still like to refer to “Martin Looter Coon” and have described African Americans as “a retrograde species of humanity”. According to Ward Schaefer of the Jackson Free Press, “Columnists in the CofCC’s newsletter have hyperventilated that non-white immigration to the U.S. was transforming the country into a ‘slimy brown mass of glop.'”
You get the picture.
Either Barr and Lott didn’t realize what sort of a group they were addressing or they didn’t care. But when the true nature of the CCC became public knowledge it was mea culpa time. In the halcyon days of the CCC Mississippi politicians were lining up to speak at events like the yearly Blackhawk political rally that raises money for segregated private schools. No more. Although the election of America’s first black president has reversed a longstanding decline in membership, the CCC is but a shadow of its former self. The Trent Lott scandal had a lot to do with that.
Which explains why Mississippi residents (Democrat, Republican and Libertarian) were shocked to learn that Lydia Chassaniol, a close ally of Governor Haley Barbour, had delivered a red meat speech to the annual meeting of the CCC in Jackson Mississippi in late June. It is reported that Chassaniol’s oration on “Cultural Heritage in Mississippi” used recent tributes to Michael Jackson “a pedophile who’s being celebrated” as evidence that the U.S. is in decline. She indicated that the government wants to “take from those who have and give to those who don’t want to work for it.” And she worried that the 2010 national census might hand over government “to the radical left.”
According to Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch, “Chassaniol ended her talk by encouraging her listeners to embrace their southern heritage. Describing the CCC as “lone voices crying in the wilderness,” Chassaniol assured her audience that “Seeing all of you here today gives me hope.”
Contacted by Beirich, the Senator freely admitted that she is a card carrying member of the Council of Conservative Citizens but denied being a racist.
Alonzo Lewis, a black pastor from Carroll County (in Chassaniol’s district) has publicly taken his Senator to task. “I wouldn’t associate myself with any hate group,” Lewis said. “For someone to do that sends a message to me that they somewhat or totally agree with their agenda.”
Filling out a CCC membership card gives the same impression.
Not everyone is upset with the Senator, however. Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Brad White admits that he wouldn’t sign up to speak at a CCC event, but only because he doesn’t need the flack. White refuses to criticize his colleague.
The Greenwood Commonwealth is the only Mississippi newspaper to run an article on a controversy that is thus far limited to well-travelled blogs and independent publications like the Jackson Free Press. The Commonwealth article mentions that Chassional had addressed the CCC, notes that the move is controversial and relates the woes that have befallen other Mississippi politicians associated with the group.
The dozens of comments from Greenwood residents that follow the article are generally supportive.
” We, the residents of North Greenwood, need a branch of CCC,” one reader said. “We could meet at the Legion hut or the Confederate memorial building and I don’t care if they do support racist views, so does the Greenwood voters league along with the ACLU and the black panthers and the NAACP, the Rainbow Coalation, PUSH, the black caucus, the black mayors conference,the black rodeo, the million man march and numerous other black only organizations. It is time that the whites in this area got up off their lazy backsides and stood up for themselves and their heritage.”
Several other readers compared the CCC to the Greenwood Voters League suggesting that a pro-white organization is no more reprehensible than a pro-black group. The fact that the Greenwood Voters League was created in the 1960s to protect prospective black voters from white retaliation doesn’t seem to register.
Greenwood is just down the road from Winona, Ms. Chassaniol’s hometown. The Senator is in her mid-fifties, which means she was raised in a thoroughly Jim Crow environment. In my next post I will focus on recent events in Winona that make Miss Lydia’s affiliations understandable.