Ventura wrong in describing Lott comments as ‘slip of tongue’

Contrary to what Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura would have us believe, U.S. Sen. Trent Lott’s praise of fellow Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist presidential candidacy was not a mere slip of the tongue, … Contrary to what Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura would have us believe, U.S. Sen. Trent Lott’s praise of fellow Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist presidential candidacy was not a mere slip of the tongue, and therefore has nothing to do with freedom of speech, but everything to do with the perpetuation of institutional racism.

As an African American, I don’t have a problem with Lott’s remarks, because I have encountered numerous White Minnesotans during my lifetime who feel the same way as the senior senator from Mississippi.

The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees Lott and Ventura the right to say whatever they want, no matter how ignorant or off the cuff their comments may be. As an American, I support their inalienable rights.

However, I do have a problem with Lott being elected majority leader of the Senate knowing how he feels about me and 30 million Americans who look like me.

Based on Lott’s past, very public gaffes where matters of race is concerned, as well as his shameful voting record on civil rights in both the U.S. House and Senate, one cannot help but conclude that he is an avowed racist, or segregationist at best.

As Senate majority leader, Lott would have enormous clout. Not only would he have the power to set and shape our domestic and international agenda for decades to come, but he would also be in a prime position to turn back the clock on the few advances African Americans have made since the civil rights struggles of the 1960s.

If Ventura were African-American would he trust Lott to have his children, grandchildren or own best interest at heart? I don’t think so.

If Sen. Lott did indeed misspeak, should African-Americans forgive him? Absolutely.

But then African Americans have a long history of being magnanimous. All one has to do is look at our relationship with the late Gov. George Wallace of Alabama for example of our ability to forgive.

In fact, African Americans have forgiven Lott, but we cannot afford to trust him with our well-being. Therefore, we cannot support him being a member of the Senate. Publicly rebuking Lott is not enough. As the leader of the Republican Party, President Bush should call for the senator’s immediate expulsion.

The primary reason Bush and most Senate Republicans have not insisted on Lott’s resignation from public life to date, is out of fear that their own records on race would be put under a microscope.

How many Republicans, or White Americans for that matter, would be able to withstand such scrutiny? Not many.

Certainly not President Bush; Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina; Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina; Sen. Don Nickels of Oklahoma; Sen. Conrad Burns of Montana; Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah; Sen. John Cornyn of Texas; or Sen.-elect Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

More African Americans live in the state of Mississippi than in any other state in the United States. In light of Lott’s record where African American are concerned, can he truly be trusted to fairly represent all citizens of his state in good conscience?

Anyone with an ounce of intelligence would say no. The good people of Mississippi and our nation deserve better than Lott.

Unfortunately, Bush and the Republican Party don’t get it, neither does Ventura. Much like Lott, Minnesota’s governor’s political career was built on divisive politics. During Ventura’s administration, he had an opportunity to bring people together across racial, socioeconomic and political lines. Instead he chose to use the governor’s office for his own financial gain.

Ventura’s mean-spirited brand of divide and conquer politics, as well as his masterful manipulation of the media, is directly responsible for Minnesota’s looming $4.5 billion budget deficit.

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December 30, 2002
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