For some reason, I am having a difficult time feeling much sorrow about the recent passing of Senator Robert Byrd, the longest serving United States senator in American history. I know that many people from West Virginia will not like the fact that I am struggling with my sorrow about Senator Byrd’s death. I would, however, just like to remind them that this man was a former member of the KKK and a man who repeatedly used the word “nigger” in an interview to refer to Black people. Although he has apologized for being a member of the KKK and for carelessly using the word nigger, his apologies never took the pain away for me. It is not that I do not forgive Senator Byrd for his past wrongs, but I have to be honest that I cannot forget what he has done in his past that has had negative consequences for Black people.
Although he had a vexing past, one of the great aspects about him that I deeply respect is his commitment to the U.S. Constitution. No politician in Washington, D.C. has had a greater commitment to the Constitution, since the Founders, than Senator Byrd. He was such a lover and protector of the U.S. Senate traditions. I love Senator Byrd the historian, but I struggle with my affection for Senator Byrd the man.
When people die, we cannot simply get all emotional and forget about the full history of the people. Yes, Senator Byrd has done some great things but he has also done some terrible things that have had a negative impact on Black people that may last a lifetime. I do want God to take care of his family, relatives, and friends during this tough time for them. I am sure that my article is not what they need right now or at anytime, but the American people need to lose any romantic notion about Senator Byrd and explore the full range of his life.
One thing that I will not miss about Senator Byrd is those long speeches that he would deliver on the floor of the United States Senate. His speeches were so boring and consumed so much time. He would go on and on talking about random things. Again, I have to be honest because I will not miss those speeches as I watch the proceedings of the U.S. Senate on C-SPAN.
Former President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Joe Biden tried to suggest that his “fleeting association” with the KKK was not really significant. Well, it is quite important to many African-Americans who have been so traumatized and harmed by the legacy of racial discrimination that this group helped to engender. Even a “fleeting association” with the KKK is harmful to Black people. So you will just have to pardon me if I don’t shed one tear for this man, and you will have to just pardon me if I am not going to participate in this love fest for him just because he is now dead.
This man is a former member of the KKK! Many Black people have died because of this group of racist haters and he participated in it—no matter how long he did participate. He died—oh well! So did many of my Black people at the hands of American terrorists—the KKK.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison