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Volume 5, Issue 1                                    University of Houston

Give Sen. Lott a break

By Matthew Caster
Opinion Columnist

U.S. Senator and soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss) is in big trouble. Last week, at Sen. Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, it seems he made a comment that has angered a few Democrats -- well, OK, all Democrats, and a few Republicans. The comment was made regarding Thurmond's presidential run in 1948. Lott said that if Thurmond had beaten Harry S. Truman that year, the country would have been a lot better off.

These comments would be dismissed purely as political banter were it not for the fact that, at the time, Thurmond was running on the Dixiecrat ticket, supported by a group of pro-segregation, pro-state rights Democrats. As such, many African-Americans have interpreted Lott's comments as a sign that the senator supports segregation.

Hindsight, of course, is always 20-20, and looking back, Lott probably shouldn't have made the comments. That's not necessarily because the comment was inherently racist, but rather because of all the attention it's getting from people trying to make it so.

Before you immediately label me a racist, think about this: Thurmond was the first senator to hire black staffers in his Senate office. He was also a strong proponent of black judges being appointed to federal judgeships. Granted, Thurmond's beliefs from 50 years ago are wrong. It just slipped Lott's mind that those beliefs were the premise behind which Thurmond ran for president.

Think about it this happened 54 years ago. In the nearly six decades since, Thurmond has been an integral part of bringing all races together, reversing his divisive stance from when he ran for president back in '48. His contributions to the U.S. Senate over his 46 years in office are beyond measure, and his service to his nation is unquestionable. 

So why is Lott in trouble? He referenced a time period when Thurmond held beliefs that are not acceptable in modern times. My personal thought on the subject is this: Lott's comments were intended to reflect that the world at that time needed the kind of leadership Thurmond has shown in 46 years of service to the Senate. Lott was not embracing discarded policies of the past, and was not trying to say the nation would be better off if everything was still "separate but equal."

Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Tom Daschle and Jesse Jackson have all called on Lott to resign as Majority Leader, because his racist comments obviously should deny him a position of leadership in the Senate. Such a notion is absolutely absurd. It is shocking that these people, who have done so much to convince blacks that all white people hate them, and that they should vote for the Democrats so their liberal policies will save them from the evils of conservatism, can even make a comment about something being racially divisive. 

Lott misspoke. He made a mistake; he didn't have his facts straight and as a result, he came across to some as sounding like a racist. A racist, however, would not, as a conservative Republican, pick up 25 percent of the black vote in his home state (Republicans typically garner only 5-10 percent of the African-American vote). Lott has proven himself as a dedicated leader, a strong statesman and a true representative of the American people. Give the guy a break.

Matthew E. Caster, a senior petroleum engineering major, 
can be reached at

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