- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Chuck Morgan, who headed the American Civil Liberties Union Washington office in the early 1970s, was both a character and a good friend. Chuck hailed from Birmingham, Alabama, and was, of course, a graduate of the University of Alabama who gained notoriety as a staunch champion of civil rights at a time when standing up for blacks in Alabama was neither all that safe nor a career enhancer. He was what his fellow Southerners would have labeled an “agitator” and he spent his life and career living up to the label. In Washington, he stood up for anti-war protesters and, no lover of Republicans or President Richard Nixon, was the driving force in the formation of the Committee to Impeach the President.

He was also one of the wisest and most honest men I have had the pleasure of knowing. We didn’t agree on much politically, but spent time together arguing over a glass or two of good bourbon and laughing about what was going on around us in those days. He died a decade ago, but I’ve been reminded often in recent days of why he finally parted ways with the ACLU.

Morgan was a Southerner and when Jimmy Carter first appeared on the scene, he was offended by his belief that half the early opposition the Georgian faced stemmed not from his views, but from the fact that he was a Southerner and “talked funny.” As it turned out, there were other problems with Mr. Carter, but even at the time — though I was certainly no Carter fan — I had to agree with Chuck’s view that much of the anti-Carter feelings within the Democratic establishment and media were traceable to anti-Southern bigotry.

The issue came to a head for Chuck when, in early 1976, he attended a reception and got into it with a New York liberal who informed him in no uncertain terms that he could never vote for Mr. Carter because of his “Southern accent.” It was too much for Chuck who informed the man “That’s bigotry, and that makes you a bigot.” The ACLU leadership in New York was appalled and reprimanded Morgan, no doubt on behalf of the organization’s New York financial base. Morgan, who had fought bigotry all his life and knew it when he saw it, resigned.

Regional and cultural as well as racial bigotry has always existed and probably always will. They are part of the homogenized establishment and media outrage at the way President Trump talks. The Trump Tower may be in Manhattan, but the president is a product of a culture that dominates the outer boroughs and he sounds funny to those who haven’t spent much time in Brooklyn or Queens. They, like Mr. Carter’s critics, may have other reasons to disagree with him, but they come to the table with a bias that Morgan would have recognized for what it is.

In today’s America some forms of bigotry are beyond the pale — others not so much. A journalist or columnist dumb or insensitive enough to criticize the way a black or Hispanic talks or looks would lose his job. A baseball player who mocks someone who happens to be Asian is roundly criticized and faces a suspension for doing so, but it is acceptable to make fun of or even discriminate against some others.

Thus last week, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni felt free to make fun of White House Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders because, well, she talks not like a Manhattanite, but a Southerner. It may come as a shock to Mr. Bruni, but more Americans sound like she does than he might imagine, not because they are dumb. It’s because they don’t come from Manhattan but from parts of the country he would just as soon ignore and, amazingly, don’t share his views.

Mr. Bruni, a certified liberal columnist for The New York Times, first made his name as the paper’s restaurant critic and probably felt comfortable knowing that few Southerners frequented Manhattan eateries that charge more for a meal than many “deplorables” make in a week.

On the opposite coast, another columnist attacked her for the way she looks, saying she “looks more like a slightly chunky soccer mom who organizes snacks for the kids’ games” than a White House spokesperson. He at least had second thoughts and apologized, but, as Chuck Morgan would recognize, both are bigots and should be condemned as such.

• David A. Keene is an editor at large at The Washington Times.

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