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December 08, 2002

ROBERT BYRD: What remarks by Robert Byrd was I talking about? These:

Asked by host Tony Snow about the status of race relations, Byrd said, "They're much, much better than they've been in my lifetime." And then he went on to prove how much short of ideal they are. "There are white niggers," he said. "I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I'm going to use that word."

So there you are. Were Lott's comments as bad? Well, on the one hand he didn't use the "N" word, which is a cultural taboo for white people. On the other hand, he did seem to be wishing for a return to the days of segregation and Jim Crow, which -- to me, at least -- is worse than simply using a disapproved word.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

On the other hand, perhaps that there is such a universal understanding that both comments were wrong and vile, and that everyone can note that mentally and move on is a sign of progress. Still, when someone *really* makes a racially retrograde remark, like Lott or Byrd, I find myself wondering why civil rights groups don't call in the press equivalent of a B-52 strike, instead of saving it for some poor white guy who uses the word "niggardly" in a speech, or who defends Huckleberry Finn.

Yeah. If you wear blackface to a party, your fraternity gets suspended. Openly wax nostalgic for segregation while holding national office and you get bupkis. Go figure.