Eugene Robinson: Haley Barbour's 'Diddly' Sense of Slavery's History





[Eugene Robinson is a columnist for the Washington Post.]

It was bad enough when Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell proclaimed "Confederate History Month" without mentioning slavery, but at least he came to his senses and apologized. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's contention that the whole controversy "doesn't amount to diddly" is much worse.

"I don't know what you would say about slavery," Barbour told CNN, "but anybody that thinks that you have to explain to people that slavery is a bad thing, I think that goes without saying."

And that's the problem -- Barbour thinks it "goes without saying." The governor of the state whose population includes the nation's highest percentage of African Americans believes it is appropriate to "honor" those who fought for the Confederacy. Clearly, he has no problem revisiting the distant past. Yet he sees no reason to mention the vile, unthinkable practices -- state-sanctioned kidnapping, torture and rape -- that those Confederate soldiers were fighting to protect.

It amounts to much more than "diddly" that so many Americans try hard to avoid coming to terms with the reality of slavery. It wasn't just "a bad thing." Littering is a bad thing. Slavery was this nation's Original Sin, and yet many people will not look at it except through a gauze of Spanish moss....


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