When Brown v. Board of Education was decided in 1954, a remarkable number of Southern leaders quietly expressed a willingness to comply. As segregationists, they weren't pleased; but the rule of law called for obedience to the Court.And hell isn't segregated either . . . Read the rest of Garrett Epps article in The Atlantic.
A few, the most dedicated racists, would have none of it. "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" George C. Wallace memorably proclaimed. Wallace was a vulgarian; but the intellectual leader of the "segregation forever" movement was James J. Kilpatrick. Using the editorial columns of The Richmond News Leader, he made Virginia and then the South too hot to hold any white leader who talked of compromise.
Kilpatrick supplied a constitutional theory to justify defiance, and it is one that will seem familiar to anyone who follows the Tea Party movement today. The Supreme Court's interpretations of the Constitution were wrong--not just in Brown, he explained, but ever since 1803. "The sovereign states," not individuals, were the only important citizens of the Union. When the federal government, or the Supreme Court, overstepped its bounds, states could simply "interpose" their authority and nullify their orders. The Fourteenth Amendment (which was probably not valid anyway) did not provide for racial equality. The Tenth Amendment guaranteed state "sovereignty." The United States of 1954 was the United States of John C. Calhoun, "unchanged by John Marshall, unchanged by the Civil War, not altered in any way since the Constitution was created in 1787."
Kilpatrick's concern was not simply purity of principle though; he was frank to say it was the purity of the white race. "What has man gained from the history of the Negro race?" he wrote in 1957. "The answer, alas, is 'virtually nothing.'" When the founders of the segregationist Prince Edward Academy fell short in assembling a library needed for state accreditation, Kilpatrick donated his own books to make sure that the all-white school could open on schedule. As late as 1964 he wrote an article for The Saturday Evening Post arguing that "the Negro race, as a race, is in fact an inferior race." Mercifully, in view of violence against black people in the South, the editors spiked this piece.
Which brings us to Kilpatrick's legacy. "Kilpatrick, by propagating a whole vernacular to serve the culture of massive resistance -- interposition, nullification, states' rights, state sovereignty -- provided an intellectual shield for nearly every racist action and reaction in the coming years," Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff wrote in their 2006 book, The Race Beat.
The simple truth of the matter is that most Republicans and "conservatives" do not respect the U.S. Constitution. They attempt to circumvent it by using the kind of phony legal arguments cooked up by James J. Kilpatrick and his ilk.
Hat tip to Sisyphus.