Last week, I noted that Katon Dawson, the chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party who is running for chairman of the RNC, had a 12-year membership in a country club that excluded blacks from being members. Today, a representative of Dawson emailed this post from the Minority Report, which includes a letter in defense of Dawson by Glenn McCall, a black RNC committeeman.
Blogger Brian Simpson concludes that it’s absurd to call Dawson a bigot because of “his friendship with McCall” and also notes that Dawson attempted to change the club’s whites-only policy. “This should be touted as a lesson in how to act as a responsible adult,” Simpson writes. “When you are made aware of a policy that you find morally objectionable, your first reaction should be to attempt to change the policy. When, and only when, it appears that your actions will be unsuccessful, you must leave the organization. That is exactly what Chairman Dawson did.”
The problem is, as the State reported, Dawson only raised a fuss about the policy this August. We’re not talking about the segregationist South of the 1950s, this is 2008. We’re supposed to believe that in the 12 years that Dawson was a member, he wasn’t suspicious about the fact that there were no black members, and it was mere coincidence that he waited until a few months before he announced he’s going to run for RNC chairman to leave the club. And this is what makes him a “responsible adult”? That’s about as believable as Barack Obama’s contention that he never heard Jeremiah Wright’s racist and anti-American vitriol until it showed up on YouTube.
To put this in a larger context, I should note that I’m a big believer in the right of free association. Even though I’m Jewish, I think anti-Semites should have every right to hang up a giant “No Jews Allowed” sign outside a private club, and exclude me from walking through the doors. But I also think that people who belong to such clubs should get a taste of their own medicine, and be harshly criticized by the rest of society. I have no idea whether Dawson himself is personally a bigot, so I won’t make such accusations. But what is clear is that Dawson derived benefits from belonging to a club that excluded blacks as members, whether in terms of prestige, business and political contacts, or merely because he spent some pleasant time there. The proper method to change the ways of these exclusive clubs is not through the legal system, but by showing its members that there are consequences to excluding minorities. The Republican Party would be making a clear statement along these lines if they were to deny him the chairmanship. At the very minimum, Republicans should be seriously considering whether, after America elected its first black president, the party wants to be led by somebody who spent more than a decade as a member of a whites-only club.
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