PLUNKETT: James Hull’s commentary is a descent into cultural bigotry.


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BY: B. Keith Plunkett | UCF Staff   @Keithplunkett

In a commentary published in the Daily Journal on Sunday, Tupelo area media consultant, pastor and community organizer James Hull resorts to blind cultural bigotry as a means to attack what he calls intolerance. He concludes by giving himself a giant pat-on-the-back for exercising such “courage”.

Hull’s polemic settles on his chosen culprit by finding that the “voices and spirits” of diversity and “racial sensitivity” in Mississippi from 30 years ago have been, in his estimation, “drowned out by the extreme roar of conservatism.”

He opines without reference to proof that “the issues of racial marginalization, discrimination and animus continue to be real in Mississippi, perpetrated by a strong and powerful Conservative movement, while Moderates and Progressives – black and white, Republican and Democrat – remain silent.”

Hull, apparently unaware of the irony and again without providing a single example, finds that “Mississippi’s growing black middle class remains silent in the face of racial hostilities and slights they experience everyday in their own organizations”; that they do so because they fear they will “jeopardize” their “individual gains”; and that middle class whites “remain silent” to the practice because they are “afraid to risk their social standing and class privilege”.

Perhaps Mr. Hull would like to provide evidence as to how Mississippi’s black middle class is growing while also simultaneously experiencing such intense “racial hostility”.

Perhaps, not.

In passing judgement on “conservatism” as the cause of racial indifference, Hull projects his own bigotry by reaching conclusions he doesn’t support with evidence, nor does he honestly portray any understanding of the principles behind that which he attacks. His finding that conservatism is merely about “dismantling government” and “pushing a narrow ‘up-by-your-bootstraps’ agenda” is at best an over-simplification by someone who hasn’t done much, if any, research; at worst it’s an attempt to demonize absent demonstration.

Conservatism isn’t a political ideology. It is a social contract. It is individuals working together to positively affect their community with the knowledge of what has and hasn’t worked in the past and an eye towards creating a better place for future generations. It is knowing history and working to keep what is best about our culture and society intact, while recognizing and fostering generational innovation.

Mr. Hull is partially correct in his simplified explanation of conservatives desire for less government. However, he misses completely the other side of the equation which requires that as government power is decentralized and reduced people must necessarily step forward and work together towards our own community solutions.

In fact, if Mr. Hull studied in order to understand conservatism, he would find he himself holds a degree of conservative thought. At least, he did.

He alluded to it only a year ago when he wrote “most of our societal differences are no longer racial but cultural” and “cultural ignorance creates fear.” Conservatives would absolutely agree with this assessment.

Maybe Mr. Hull should rather welcome doing what he said was sorely needed in 2014.  His call to action then was for more citizens to “share in the responsibility of keeping their communities safer.”

Demonizing a person or a group of people as he does today without first attempting to understand their motivations flies in the face of his previously stated position. The words and actions of Mr. Hull today are those that Mr. Hull of 2014 claimed to despise.

No, Mr. Hull. Conservatism is not racist. It is not intolerant. It is empowering at the level of community where we are most likely to successfully work together across racial and class divides.

Rather than sit back and throw bombs from the cheap seats of political favoritism and ignorance, Mr. Hull should embrace understanding, local participation and involvement of everyone as a positive step in the right direction. One might think from the resume he shares with readers that would be his goal, and certainly that is what he promoted a year ago.

Might there be a few disagreements along the way as to the best solution to any given problem by encouraging more localized control and action? Probably so. But at the bare minimum Mr. Hull should have enough character and honor to get to know the people he claims to disagree with instead of resorting to blind cultural and political bigotry at the outset.

Hull writes: “We cannot expect the purveyors and perpetrators of racism, prejudice and exclusion to stand against the very things in which they so fervently believe.”

Indeed. Where’s your mirror, sir? You appear to have something in your eye.

Keith Plunkett is the Policy and Communications Director for the United Conservatives Fund. He has worked on communications and policy issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, government agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by email at keith@unitedconservativesfund.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett

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15 Comments

Filed under contributor, Keith Plunkett

15 responses to “PLUNKETT: James Hull’s commentary is a descent into cultural bigotry.

  1. Bill Smith

    The MS Republican Party has always had a struggle with regard to race. People such as Gil Carmichael, Thad Cochran, the current Speaker of the House, even Haley Barbour and Trent Lott were/are moderates on race. There was within the Party tension between those who wanted to keep the old 1890 state Constitution and those who thought it should be changed. In some ways this is paralleled by the current tensions over the State Flag with the Battle Flag – whose who fight to keep it and those who want to change it. Those who insist on the current State Flag with which very few Black citizens of the state can identify (they’ll just have to learn to live with it because a majority of voters voted to retain it and that settled the matter fro all time) and those who would like to have a flag which represents both Black and white citizens, about which all could feel pride and unity. If one thinks that those who call themselves now “conservatives” are on the old side of the tension over race in the Party need do no more than to read the Facebook posts and the comments they allow to remain posted. This “conservatism” is not good for MS or the Republican Party.

    • Bill Jackson

      That’s the most idiotic attempt at revisionist history I’ve ever heard. Haley Barbour told an aide that he would be “reincarnated as a watermelon and placed at the mercy of blacks”.

      Trent Lott retired in disgrace because of his racist comments.

      • Bill Jackson

        And of course Thad Cochran’s campaign participated in some of the worst race-baiting ever seen in a modern campaign last year.

      • Bill Smith

        Trent Lott said a stupid thing – that was not itself racist – at a celebration honoring Strom Thurmond, but he was a moderate on race through his career as a Senator. And look at Barbour’s record on race. His statement you quote is the kind of thing we southerners of this age bracket sometimes say around one another. Not to justify it, but it happens. But, Haley is, if for other reasons, pragmatic enough not to crawl out there on the same limb on race issues as McD and Sojourner. And Thad Cochran is one of the few MS Republicans who never wrote off the black vote but tried to cultivate it. He also has taken the moderate position on the flag along with Wicker and Gunn. Not revisionism but a valid observation on the MS GOP and its players on matters of race from the early days of the modern party to today.

      • Bill Jackson

        Bill,

        What is this driving anger that you have for both McDaniel and Sojourner? Your obsession to bring those two names into every argument discredits anything you have to say.

        I know of no position they have taken on race that “crawls out on a limb.”

        If you are speaking about the flag issue, both of them have taken the same position as many others like the governor and the Lt. Governor.

        The truth is it your heroes you mention whose record on race is terrible.

        If Lott’s statements weren’t racist then why did he embark upon an PR apology tour to try and save his own hide?

      • Bill Smith

        Bill, thanks for the question, which is a good one. I am happy to explain, I have no “driving anger” toward McDaniel and Sojourner. They are brought in here because this website belongs to Keith Plunkett who speaks for them both and who often uses it to promote and/or defend them. But the “driving anger” I perceive is from the “conservative” part of the Party of which McDaniel and Sojourner are the primary representatives.

        My problem with them is that they (wrongly) portray themselves as the “true” conservatives and constantly attack what they call “the establishment” whom they (again wrongly) portray as “progressives.” The truth is the whole MS Republican Party is conservative, and strongly so, but the Party does not always do nor not do according to the positions of these two Senators. In my view their self-understanding as “the pure,” their ongoing resentments about the election in 2014, and their unrelenting attacks on the Party and its leaders has isolated them and is harmful to the Party and the conservative cause. It seems to me that they are willing to tear down the Party in order to take control of it and “cleanse” it. They will not succeed, but they may do a lot of damage. As a lifelong conservative and Republican and having spent many years in MS and having children and grandchildren still there, I care about the Party and about MS.

        The problem they have right now is that neither is going to have any voice or influence in the Senate. They have isolated themselves, alienated most of their Republican colleagues in the Senate, and are going to find themselves marginalized in January. Think about that this way. What if they were leaders of the Senate and had 2 or 3 Senators attacking them. What would they do?

        I can’t see how any of this discredits anything. But, of course, you, as we all, have every right to your opinion and your judgment about the worth of what I say.

        I believe is you look at the things that McD and Sojourner have take regarding the Flag, it is different from the Governor’s and Lt. Gov’s positions, though I am disappointed that those two have not exercised more leadership on getting a flag toward which all MS citizens can feel pride and loyalty. It seems to me strange that people want to retain the battle flag n the mS flag knowing that Blacks will always have negative feelings when the say that – and nearly unanimously so. Retention of the battle flag promotes the “us against the world” mentality that has hurt MS in the past. We are the only state in the South that retains it. I am a southerner, who takes pride in being such, whose heroes include Confederates, and who has ancestors who fought and died for the cause. But it is time for MS to move beyond the flag issue.

        I believe that Senators McDaniel and Sojourner appeal to some of the feelings and prejudices that are worst about our state. While they are careful to say anything overtly racist, the things they do say speak loudly to the redneck-racists in our state. Look at the comments which are made and allowed to stay on their fb pages – comments that are clearly racist and inflammatory. As Southerners, you and I both know that there are ways that white politicians “signal” or “speak in code” to racists – all the while protesting that they themselves are not racists.

        You and I just disagree about those I have mentioned and their records on race. For instance Gil Carmichael, Leon Bramblett, Thad Cochran, Philip Gunn and others have in the context of MS good records when it come sto race.

        Regarding Trent Lott, he made a politically incorrect statement which others jumped on. Being politician he wanted to retain his position in the Senate. Hence he did what was politically necessary to retain his position. His effort failed, and he had to resign. It was politics from start to finish.

  2. I appreciate the comments. But, the fact that this has somehow become a flag discussion shows, at least in part, the total misunderstanding of the conservative position, and how quickly some people want to make it about class and ethnic division.

    Too many today identify as conservatives and can’t tell you what it really means to be a conservative. More than a few use it as a personal label but have no clue how the Republican Party Platform is built on this foundation. Then when politicians depart from the platform for “pragmatic” reasons and someone calls their into question for it’s rejection of root values, it is the questioner who is demonized for it.

    Likewise, many who bristle at the term ‘conservative” are actually conservative in many respects and don’t know it, because they haven’t heard nor seen in practice from those who claim to be conservative what the philosophical and historical underpinnings of conservatism really are. They too have bought into this idea that it is an ideology.

    Conservatism cannot be so easily distilled into a racial discussion. Russell Kirk put it best when he said conservatism is in it’s essence about the golden rule. Some may want to change the flag out of that desire. But, until the hearts of the men and women are ready to change it, and understand why that change needs to occur, then the discussion of what it all means will continue, as it should. You can’t simply call a whole group of people racists because they don’t agree and expect it to lead to any positive conclusion.

    Our full understanding of our history is to grasp it in all it’s complexity. That cannot be done by a top down party centric definition. It must be understood at the grassroots level and accepted.

    Those who would shut out the voices of disagreement from conservatives don’t want to grow the party, they want it to serve the same narrow interests that it has served for twenty years. The way to grow the party is to reconnect to the timeless principles that form its backbone. Otherwise there is no alternative to statism or the progressive liberalism of the Democrat party.

    The grassroots movement in Mississippi that has grown out of what happened in 2014 will have it’s say whether the Republican blue bloods of yesteryear want it or not. The strong minded are liberty minded, and they are becoming more organized every day.

    The tipping point is approaching.

  3. Bill Smith

    Keith, as I assume you know, I have not reduced this to a flag issue. You also know that my own conservatism of is the Buckley and Reagan sort. I was a conservative before you were born, which I say, not to say that as a way of saying I know more than you, but to say that I don’t need to establish my conservatism.

    I think by your understanding of pragmatism in relation to a party platform, both Reagan (who actually had to do politics) and to a lesser degree Buckley (who didn’t have to do politics) were compromisers. Both were accused of it.

    I think it is your side that wants to narrow the party. I think the rest of the Party is happy to hear you and happy for you to be part of the coalition but not to have you say what has to be said and done.

    The tipping point may well be near. You guys will have to decide to be a part of the Party that you can’t have control of or establish your own. The majority of Mississippians are well past 2014 and don’t want to participate in the politics of anger and resentment. That is where the electorate always goes ultimately. That explains Reagan.

    • Bill, I know it must be more difficult for you living in Virginia to know what’s really happening on the ground in Mississippi.

      Let me assure you, the majority of Mississippians aren’t paying attention anymore. But the majority of those who are are very much still attune to what occurred in 2014. In fact, I doubt you would be bringing up McDaniel and Sojourner in a comment section on a post that has nothing to do with either of them if you weren’t concerned about it.

      I had to look back to the original comment by you to find that, yes, you were the commenter who brought up the flag. Again, on a post that didn’t even mention the flag.

      You seem to have this strange passive aggressive behavior when commenting to bring up a subject and then retreat from it when pressed.

      At any rate, what we seek to do with UCF is not to narrow the party, but to expand it, to increase participation and to engage the public at the local level where solutions are best addressed. This is something the state party hasn’t done very well. As I told the executive director of the party in a phone conversation a few months ago, our organization could act as a great asset to the party by helping bring new faces and new volunteers to the fore. But, the party leadership isn’t interested because they are only interested in maintaining power.

      And, hey. That’s okay.

      If, as you say the mindset is, “You guys will have to decide to be a part of the Party that you can’t have control of or establish your own.”

      The fact that there is even a worry from you or anyone that someone wants to “have control” of the Party proves my point.

      We don’t need your permission to organize, to participate, or to activate our volunteers and act; and we don’t seek your permission.

      That you would repeatedly come to a site that you deem to be enemy territory and keep discussing concerns in comments that are off subject with the published content proves your worry.

      That’s not my problem. My goal is to keep speaking the truth and to keep organizing our movement. Whether that aligns with the GOP leadership’s goals at some point is of little concern. It doesn’t change my focus one way or the other.

      • Bill Smith

        Keith, if you knew me at all you would know that I am am the straight ahead sort. I did not say I did not introduce the flag issue. Yes, I did introduce it, and I don’t back away from that in the least. I said, if you will look at my comment to which you just responded, that I did not reduce the discussion to the flag issue. You might find me aggressive, but you surely would not find me passive.

        The relevance of the flag is that it does very much relate to race in Mississippi which was the subject of both Mr. Hull’s commentary and your Blog in response to it.

        I don’t find I have any problem keeping up with what’s going on in MS. We don’t live in the age of the horse drawn buggy. We live in an electronic age when information is exchanged instantaneously. This I am confident you know.

        The reason I bring up the Senators here (and it is disingenuous on your part to say your post had had nothing to do with them – everything here is about about McDaniel) is that I, as one who cares about our state and about my party in the state, am weary of their constant attacks on the party without which neither of them would hold office. For my part, I have said before I wish Sen. McDaniel had challenge the Lt. Governor this year. That would have been an excellent test of the Senator’s real strength. He would have been handily defeated, and we would be done with this now. I suspect that is why he decided not to do it. It would have ended his aspirations for higher office.

        Again, you really don’t know me, if you think I am worried about the rather narrow slice of MS conservatives you represent taking over. I don’t have the slightest concern about that. You can make some trouble, but I have no doubts about your winning. You can’t.

        Of course, you don’t need anyone’s permission to do whatever you want to do. I think the party has tried to reach out to you, and would be happy to include you. But it would not serve your purposes, for you are nothing if you can’t portray yourselves as outsiders. So I fully expect you will do what you do.

        The Mississippi Republican Party is the strongest now it has ever been. The November elections proved that. And it did that without any help whatsoever from you. Meanwhile Senator McDaniel’s caucus in the Senate had shrunk.

        The vast majority of Mississippians, Mississippi conservatives, and Mississippi Republicans don’t have the slightest interest in going back to 2014. They don’t share the resentments. They don’t want to the attacks. They want the House and Senate to work. And they will next term.

        I come here just because it is what you call enemy territory – your term not mine – to see what folks who don’t agree with me and consider me the enemy because I am a regular conservative Mississippi Republican. Sometimes I just chuckle. Sometimes I engage and see what happens.

        I think the fact that your movement depends on portraying people who built the Party and are responsible for its success as your enemy is telling about the nature of the movement. It lacks the confidence, cheerfulness, and maturity of the robust conservatism of Buckley and Reagan. And that’s why it won’t succeed.

  4. Bill,

    I’m going to comment one last time here and let you have the last word. You obviously have more time on your hands than I do.

    If you think for a moment you have your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in Mississippi politics because you hang out online and troll Facebook you are delusional.

    I travel and speak to groups across the state every week, many of them are Republican Party groups. So this ‘us against them’ narrative you keep trying to work out in your own head . . . well, it’s primarily in your head.

    There are real disagreements WITHIN the party in Mississippi right now, real people who get together and talk face to face. And we do so with confidence, cheerfulness and maturity. We smile, we laugh, and we ask about each others families. These are people I have known for decades in many cases and have worked alongside in campaigns and for the party.

    This anger, to the degree that you believe it exists, is a figment of your imagination apparently fueled by your lack of connection. Many folks who have given blood, sweat and tears to the GOP here want to see changes, yes. But, no one is kicking anyone else out or even trying to. There is a healthy debate going on in this state in Republican Women groups and GOP clubs, and conservative groups across Mississippi.

    You conjure the name McDaniel as if your casting a pox. But, he is one of the most sought after speakers in the state by REPUBLICAN groups right now.

    We here in Mississippi are working it out, and we will continue to work it out together. You are far more divisive and angry about all this than the majority of people I speak to every day.

    So you keep building your straw men and then knocking them down. Have fun with yourself. In the meantime you’re no closer to the truth of what’s really happening here on the ground than Roanoke is to Jackson.

  5. Bill Smith

    l. I do know the kind of conservatism you represent. And you have every right to it. I prefer the big tent, 11th commandment, savvy, principled but pragmatic conservatism of Reagan. I don’t have a need to have the last word. But let’s hear from Frank Perhaps he is a delusional as II:

    “The question now for Mississippi voters seems to be just how conservative should this Republican majority be, and how do we define “conservative” in the Magnolia State.

    There is a small but vocal faction of voters who desire Republicans to be ruled more by emotion than results, not unlike Democrats or the backers of Initiative 42 this very year. Hype is used to grift. Personal gratification and raising their own name ID are valued over the good of the whole. Accusatory press releases are sent out to try and maintain some semblance of relevancy.

    It seems the farther you go to the right, you get closer to the demagoguing tactics of the left.

    The basic conservative ideology embraced by the Republican Party has long been the ideas of smaller government, lower taxes, fiscal sanity and balanced budgeting, a strong defense, personal responsibility, valuing human life and promoting the traditional family structure, and safeguarding our rights of free speech, religion, and to bear arms.

    Debate is good. What’s been happening of late is not.

    Republicans both statewide and nationally are in a fight for the “soul” of the party. There are far too many in the public eye who think it should be some sort of shouting contest. Those interested in actually governing with a sound basis in policy must be willing to fight this fight because some of the buffoonery we have seen at the state level, though it appears to be diminishing numerically, isn’t going away.

    The philosophy that the house must be burnt down every time a policy decision doesn’t go our way or a compromise is reached that’s not exactly as we would have liked allows the Democrats and the mainstream media to go on the offensive while causing division that only serves the minority’s interests.

    How Mississippi conservatives define themselves and either choose to work together or seek an individualistic identify in this Republican majority will largely define the success of the GOP in the public policy realm in the next four years.”

    • EduKate

      Wait a minute. Are you quoting “Fourth place” Frank Corder? Hahahaha

      Now wonder you don’t have a clue!

      The guy calls himself a political consultant and has never had a job consulting with anyone. He’s run for countywide office in Jackson Co. and for mayor of Pascagoula and was absolutely slaughtered both times.

      He has about as much credibility as my cat!

      • Bill Smith

        Good comment. Proves my point about the movement. It’s angry populism. Reminds me of what Bilbo said about a politician speaking to a Rotary – too many people looking in and resenting your being there. I have never been impressed by ridicule as argument. It can be a good rhetorical device when you have made a solid argument, but it is not an argument. The modus operandi is, “If they don’t agree with us, they must be stupid.” I will be interested to see who has credibility in the State Senate next January. My dog would love to meet your cat.

  6. Bill Smith

    And a sincere, Happy Thanksgiving! to all.

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