Not unusually, Time magazine’s story got the thing just exactly wrong: “Whitewashing the Past” read its cover line, superimposed on the photo of a worried-looking Trent Lott. What the editors appear to have meant was that Lott himself was attempting to “whitewash” the past—his own, his state’s, and his party’s—either by his now notorious words of tribute to Strom Thurmond’s “Dixiecrat” presidential campaign of 1948, given at Senator Thurmond’s 100th birthday party (if Thurmond had been elected, he said, we wouldn’t have had “all these problems” that we have had since), or in his increasingly abject apologies for them afterwards. But this was just the reversed image of Lott’s own stupidity in pretending that any such thing was even remotely possible. You might as well talk of whitewashing the ocean.

Not, of course, that racism has...


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