Barr's 'Real Americans'
Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia--the member of the House Judiciary Committee who wanted President Clinton to be impeached even before the Monica Lewinsky matter surfaced--thinks he knows what real America is about. When I testified before the House Judiciary Committee, Barr contrasted me (as well as three other law professors two with Jewish names and the third a black former judge) with "real America." Judge Higgenbotham and I both expressed resentment over being deemed something other than a real American. It reminded me of the bad old days of McCarthyism, where people who disagreed with the Senator from Wisconsin were called un-American.
Just who does Barr regard as "real Americans"? Some clue can be discerned from his close association with a group called the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), to whose national board meeting and conference he gave the keynote address on June 6, 1998.
The CCC is a slightly softer version of the KKK. Its web site contains "A Call to White Americans," which urges its members to "find the fairskinned babies, and see them as your children." I guess Barr thinks that "real Americans" share a common skin color! The CCC newspaper, Citizens Informer, carries editorials that contain real American views like the following: "Western civilization with all its might and glory would never have achieved its greatness without the directing hand of God and the creative genius of the white race. Any effort to destroy the race be a mixture of black blood is an effort to destroy western civilization itself."
The CCC newspaper also carries an ad selling a book claiming that "Integration is Genocide." Then there are the photographs: Barr standing with his arm around a national director of CCC and posing with the President of organization. These are the "real Americans" with whom Barr so proudly associates.
Not surprisingly, the CCC and those who are associated with it use the term "real America" to describe whites who agree with their racist agenda. At a rally to support the Confederate battle flag in Mississippi at which CCC members handed out Confederate flags, white supremacist Richard Barrett said that the Confederate flag "signifies the real American way of life as it was before James Meredith [the first black student at the University of Mississippi] and Earl Warren, and as it can and will be again."
The CCC also opposes the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union who were prevented from practicing their religion by the communists, arguing that they are atheists whose language and culture are alien to that of real Americans. Nor is their nativism limited to hatred of Jews; they oppose the immigration of Latinos as well.
To his credit, Lt. Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas canceled his scheduled speech in 1994 for the CCC when he learned who else was speaking and when he realized what the organization stood for. He said "he would never knowingly share the platform with someone affiliated with white supremacist and anti-Semitic organizations" because he "live[s] by the maxim, 'Avoid the very appearance of evil.'"
To the contrary, Barr, who was fully aware of this organization's racist and anti-Semitic agenda, chose not to follow Lt. Governor Huckabee's example. He not only gave the keynote address to the CCC's National Board, but even allowed himself to be photographed literally embracing one of their national directors.
As the CCC's guest of honor, Barr joined the ranks of other CCC keynote speakers such as David Duke, the former KKK leader. In a speech in 1995, Duke promised CCC members a "white revolution in America," adding:
"We are in a struggle for our very genes, for the blood that flows in our veins, that makes us the way we are. This country is built on our heritage, and we've got the right to survive."
It is in this context that Barr's reference to "real America" must be understood. The "real Americans" whom he supports include white racists who oppose integration and equality. When Barr refers to "real America" in the future, you are now on notice of what he means and who the real Americans are with whom he associates and before whom he speaks.
Every American, including Barr, has full and complete freedom of associations and freedom of speech. But every American, including Judge Higginbotham, myself, and the other members of the Judiciary Committee, also has the right--indeed, the obligation--to condemn those who associate with and support racist and anti-Semitic organizations and who deem the members of these organizations "real Americans" while considering some of us less than real Americans. Barr especially is to be condemned because he willingly aided the CCC in its efforts to achieve legitimization by boasting that a member of Congress is willing to speak before it and be associated with it.
Alan M. Dershowitz is Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.