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White Hero Republican Would Like Credit For Not Being Racist Monster In 1898, Thanks

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Stern schoolmarm Thom Tillis – who would very much like to be your next senator, North Carolina, please and thank you – had a chance a few years ago to be a decent and generous human being on the issue of our country’s terrible history of race relations. All he had to do was let the North Carolina state legislature pass a resolution formally apologizing for the terrible Wilmington race riot of 1898. It would have cost him literally nothing but the couple of seconds it would take to say “Aye” or push a button or spit tobacco juice into a particular spittoon, or however the legislature in North Carolina records votes. But wouldn’t you know it, Thom decided that party identification and that general sense of white man grievance that afflicts so many conservatives was more important.


The 1898 riot occurred when a couple thousand white supremacists decided they were unhappy with the biracial government, made up of Republicans and members of the Populist Party, that ruled the mostly black city of Wilmington. So they burned down the offices of the city’s black-owned newspaper, attacked and killed dozens of blacks, and overthrew the elected government, replacing it with one made up of Democrats. The majority of Wilmington’s black residents fled, turning it into a majority-white city with legalized segregation and Jim Crow laws passed by the state legislature. Democracy! It brings a tear of pride to the eye.

A mere 109 years later, when the state legislature wanted to formally apologize for this travesty, first-term legislator Tillis saw an opportunity to pander to the remnants of white supremacy in North Carolina, and for some reason thought this was a brave thing to do. Tell us about it, Mother Jones:

Tillis pushed for an amendment introduced by a fellow state representative that would have added language to the bill commemorating the heroic white Republican lawmakers who had opposed the violence. "The proposed amendment would have acknowledged the historical fact that the white Republican government joined with black citizens to oppose the rioters," he argued. The amendment failed, and Tillis ended up voting no on the final version.

Good Lord, man. It was a bipartisan resolution produced by a bipartisan committee. Who cares which white people were burning the blacks out of their homes and which ones were ineffectively defending them? White people in general benefitted greatly from the resulting apartheid regime that lasted well into the 1960s (and, you could easily argue, continue benefitting today). Were you really trying to get a legislative tug job for the party of Jesse Helms over a race riot? And then voted against the resolution in a snit because your precious #NotAllWhitePeople amendment failed?

This brought to mind an occasion a few years ago when a certain governor of North Carolina’s neighboring state thought it not worth mentioning that slavery might have had something to do with the Civil War. And we know what happened to that guy. Someone please make Republican politicians, particularly the white Southern ones, read a history book every once in awhile.

On the plus side, incumbent Kay Hagan’s lead over Tillis seems to be getting larger, so he’ll soon be free to spend his time grousing that white Republicans just don’t get enough credit for all they have done for black people.

[Mother Jones]

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