Mixed Feelings about Senator Robert Byrd’s Death

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

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8 comments

    1. I love that you are able to love the good that someone does regardless of the other things that they may have done. I didn’t know this about the late senator. Thanks for enlightening me.

  1. Although I never voted for the man, as a West Virginian, I can say Byrd did a lot for this State. Whether that is a Senator’s purpose in life or not, he brought a lot of money here and has made definite improvements in our economy.

    I can say he was one of very few statesmen left in our federal government. I don’t think the man was a selfish man; I believe he felt his actions were always for “his people” and not made for personal gain as most of those traitors in our Senate do.

    His KKK affiliation always bothered me. I feel he did overcome that with his actions, but as you, it will always bother me.

    The thing that bothered me most was his selective use of the Constitution. He would stand on the floor of the Senate and wave his pocket-sized Constitution and talk about great things. He did that quite often in public speeches too. However, he was F-rated by the NRA. He voted for Campaign Finance reform. He voted for ObamaCare. He had the second longest filibuster in U.S. history against civil rights for blacks. And, he voted for ideas like affirmative action. In my humble opinion, he was way off the mark as a Constitutionalist.

    If WV Governor Manchin’s plans go well, he will be Byrd’s ultimate successor. This well-liked, but do-nothing governor, has no protective spirit for the state of West Virginia as Byrd did. He is big “friend of coal,” ignores ecology, is anti-business and continues support of the energy industries that are raping the State and killing its people. In this aspect only, I’ll miss Senator Byrd.

    1. Excellent response, Goose! Senator Byrd did bring to West Virginia a significant amount of money that has done the people of your state significant good. I also agree that he was off the mark as a true Constitutionalist. Hey, Goose, I think a Republican has a chance at winning his seat. What do you think?

      1. There’s only one person I know of that would have a chance and she is the only Republican in Congress from WV – Shelley Moore Capito, my Congresswoman.

        News is, she’s considering a run, but I don’t think she will. I’m guessing she’ll run for Governor instead, when this Senate debacle is all over.

        This is a strange political system here. It’s very close to being a single-party state, but many of the Democrats are very conservative (blue-dogs); some are much more conservative than the typical federal Republican. When WV goes red for a Republican president, I figure much more than half of those votes are from Democrats!

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