What? Racism in Louisiana? No! Apologize!

The ongoing effort by conservatives to define racism out of existence (if not to attribute it solely to people who worry about racism) reached a new low this week, per this AP story:

Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama’s deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.

In an interview with NBC News on Thursday, Landrieu was quoted as saying that the South “has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans.”

The comments came after an NBC reporter asked the senator why Obama has such low approval ratings in Louisiana. Landrieu’s first response was that the president’s energy policies are deeply disliked by residents of the oil and gas-rich state.

She then added, “I’ll be very, very honest with you. The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”

Note that Landrieu didn’t describe racism as Obama’s biggest problem, much less suggest that anyone in particular who didn’t like him had racial motives. She simply said there’s a history of racism in the South that naturally was reflected in attitudes towards the first African-American president. I cannot imagine a less disputable contention, and the honorable thing for representatives of the Party of Lincoln to do would be to respond with a “yes, but” argument.

But no:

State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere issued a statement late Thursday calling Landrieu’s remarks “insulting to me and to every other Louisianian.”

“Louisiana deserves better than a senator who denigrates her own people by questioning and projecting insidious motives on the very people she claims to represent,” he said. “Senator Landrieu and President Obama are unpopular for no other reason than the fact the policies they advance are wrong for Louisiana and wrong for America.”

So it seems Landrieu’s job is to whitewash Louisiana history and deny any white people there have “insidious motives.” Do you suppose Villere never ascribes “insidious motives” to Louisiana’s African-Americans? Ha!

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.