Ta-Nehisi Coates asserts that Barbour was ignorant of history. Fine, call him ignorant. But don't call him someone who had "affection" for "white supremacist" organizations, or who was a "fan of moderate strains of white supremacist ideology."Coates claims that Yglesias and others in the left-blogosphere did not use the term "racist," but if you say that someone has an "affection" for a white supremacist organization, or shares such ideology, aren't you calling them a racist? That is the tactic I so despise in Yglesias' attack on Barbour. If you have the proof Barbour is or was racist, show us the proof. But if you don't have it, don't make the logical jump.Yglesias knew exactly what he was doing by framing his accusations as such. And it had nothing to do with painting Barbour as ignorant; it was all about making the racism charge stick. Coates, whose writing I have praised in the past, should acknowledge why Yglesias framed the "affection" argument as he did. Let's not play word games; Matthew Yglesias sought to portray Haley Barbour as a racist, but the quote upon which Yglesias based the accusation did not prove the charge.
To be clear, the most bothersome aspect of the presentation was when they were hemmed into discussing causes, and offered up an ignorance of secession that went beyond willful--it was total, it was the air, it was Tennessee--at least as they knew it. But I talked to a lot of these people. They fed me and the group I was traveling with (Barbecue, cole slaw, potato salad. Damn good.) of which I was the only black person. I really got no inkling that they were racist. They were doing this exercise in a graveyard where there forebears were buried, and I got the sense that were much more tied by the a belief in blood as identity, than any antagonism towards blacks. What I saw was a profound need to see their ancestors as honorable. As I've written before, I'm powerfully acquainted with that impulse. I'm also well acquainted with its pitfalls.