Lott Case Shows Free Speech At A Crossroads In U.S.
The difficulty in which Senator Trent Lott finds
himself is not really about him. It is about the ability
of racial minorities to
censor the thoughts and words—including throwaway
lines such as Senator Lott used in his birthday tribute
Senator Thurmond—of white people even to the point
of destroying their careers.
If a U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader can be
controlled in this way, then all of us are subject to
censorship and removal as well, including Senator
Don Nickles and
others who see an opportunity to take Senator Lott`s
powerful position as Majority Leader. Democrats, who are
enjoying the post-election windfall of Republican
self-destruction, will also be subject to removal
anytime their words can be construed to give
offense to a
The Bush White House, too, will find that far more
white votes will be lost from this imbroglio than
black votes gained, not because whites are
segregationists, but because whites understand that what
is really transpiring is
censorship of their thoughts and words, and they
will despise President Bush and the Republican Party for
cowardice and opportunism.
White people are watching with trepidation the
dissolution of their First Amendment rights to free
speech and the onset of thought control. There is the
recent case of
Janice Barton in Michigan, who said in
private conversation to her mother that “I wish
these damned spics would learn to speak English.”
Her words were overheard by an off duty Hispanic deputy
sheriff, who followed her to her car and took down her
Janice Barton was arrested and spent time in jail for
Another recent case comes from Idaho, where a white
physically assaulted by a black male. The woman`s
screams brought her white husband to the scene. He was
naturally upset, and, in the heat of the moment, he
called the black man a “nigger.”
There have been two cases—a
government employee in Washington, D.C., and a
schoolteacher—where white people used the word
and found themselves fired or in hot water simply
because uneducated blacks mistook the fine old word for
a racial slur.
These were “warm-up” cases involving ordinary people
without powerful positions or a base of public support.
Senator Lott, however, has a strong base in his home
state, and he is well enough regarded by other U.S.
Senators to be Senate Majority Leader. If he can be
knocked off because blacks choose to be
offended by their interpretation of an offhand
remark, an enormous power to censure and rebuke will
have been placed in racial hands.
This power will be used, not only to curb hateful
speech but also to censor uncomfortable truths. The
result will be to establish deference by the majority to
the minority, just as under an aristocratic system.
Neither the Fourth Estate nor Academia will escape these
The Supreme Court will be intimidated as well.
The Court has
before it a
case on the
constitutionality of racial quotas, that is, unequal
treatment of people on the basis of race. Racial quotas
are used by
university administrators to admit “preferred
minorities” who cannot meet the standards demanded of
white applicants. It has become commonplace for
better qualified whites to be turned away to create
spaces for blacks.
The same quota phenomenon characterizes employment,
promotion, and access to training programs.
Government contracts often go to the high bidder if
the high bidder is a “preferred minority.”
“Preferred minority” has become an official
government term. Nothing could be
clearer than that the
U.S. Constitution allows for no such person or
persons. Yet, for 37 years we have watched the creation
of a class of preferred people, a new aristocracy. And
now they are going to be given the power to shut the
rest of us up.
If President Bush, the Republican Party, and the
gaggle of white pundits deliver this enormous power to
Jesse Jackson and
Al Sharpton, how in the world can the Supreme Court
take away existing preferences for blacks in university
The legal inequality of the races has been
established by 37 years of federal government policy.
Blacks have more than met the requirements of squatters`
rights to their privileges.
If Senator Lott is removed for “giving offense,” the
Court cannot possibly come out for equality in law
without being denounced as
“racist and segregationist.”
Indeed, the Court knows that if it rules against
racial quotas, the vast majority of university
presidents and media pundits will damn the Court for
“resegregating higher education.”
A variety of white opportunists see in Senator Lott`s
departure opportunities to gain their own ends. Some see
a chance to move up in leadership position. Libertarians
don`t like Lott`s Big Government spending. Neoconservatives
see an opportunity to replace him with someone more
friendly to their
military-police state. All of these shortsighted
interests will work to push Lott into resigning.
A remaining question is: If the power brokers should
come to their senses and understand what is really at
stake, is Senator Lott now too compromised with promises
of more racial set-asides and “compassionate spending”
to serve the common good?
The likely answer is, Yes. Still, do we want to have
our tongues cut out in order to be rid of him?
Craig Roberts is the author with Lawrence M. Stratton of
The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and
Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name
of Justice. Click
here for Peter
Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent
epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.