The latest reminder how intellectually bankrupt the conservative movement remains in this country are the tributes written about journalist and once-avowed racist James Kilpatrick, an Oklahoma City native, who died recently.
In its obituary,The New York Times mentioned this about Kilpatrick:
At times, Mr. Kilpatrick went beyond constitutional arguments. In 1963, he drafted an article for The Saturday Evening Post with the proposed title “The Hell He Is Equal,” in which he wrote that “the Negro race, as a race, is in fact an inferior race.”
This was a racism he apparently learned in Oklahoma City. According to The Times obituary, Kilpatrick, who was a syndicated newspaper columnist and a conservative opinion contributor to the television show 60 Minutes, later “re-examined” his views on segregation:
“I was brought up a white boy in Oklahoma City in the 1920s and 1930,” he told Time magazine in 1970. “I accepted segregation as a way of life. Very few of us, I suspect, would like to have our passions and profundities at age 28 thrust in our faces at 50.”
In the obituary, Kilpatrick is called “a prominent conservative voice for half a century.” That Kilpatrick was able to remain “prominent” after his ignorant and hateful vitriol must be attributed to a lingering and perhaps foundational racism in the conservative movement along with a mainstream media that sees such overt racism as a type of historical balance to liberalism and diversity, not as something inherently wrong and immoral.
The blog Sans Everything, in a post titled “James J. Kilpatrick: Death of a Bigot,” points out the 2006 book Freedom Is Not Enough by Nancy MacLean depicts Kilpatrick as someone who eventually learned to hide his white supremacist views and carry on with his ultra-conservative agenda.
The post’s writer, listed as Jeet Heer, had these words about Kilpatrick:
I expect to see many mealy-mouthed obituaries about how Kilpatrick was a sweet old man who might have had a few wrong-headed ideas when young but who grew wiser with age. In fact, Kilpatrick never genuinely repented his racism, and until his legacy is described accurately there will be no full reckoning with the past.