When I first read former 'Southern Avenger' Jack Hunter's column in The Daily Beast, I was pretty skeptical.
In the column, he claims to have repented of his racist ways and is ashamed of them now.
I argued the Confederate flag wasn’t about race. I believed it. Millions of well-meaning Southerners believe it too.
I was wrong. That flag is always about race. Whatever political or historical points the flag’s defenders make, there will never be a time—and never has been a time—in which millions of Americans have looked at that symbol and not seen hatred.
We can argue for the rest of time whether this is fair or not. And for the rest of time, that symbol will still be seen in an overwhelmingly negative light.
Those who see hatred have political and historical reasons too.
This has always been the Confederate flag debate game. One camp’s arguments are supposed to trump the other’s.
I’m not here to settle those arguments. I tired of them years ago.
But I am here to say there is something at stake far more important than this symbol.
Heritage might not be hate. But battling hate is far more important than anyone’s heritage, politics, or just about anything else. We should have different priorities.
Just as a reminder, here's a sampling of what he served up from 1999 through 2012.
Hunter co-wrote Rand Paul's 2011 book and was a staffer for him. He still claims to be conservative, but says that conservatives need to lose the hate and stop clinging to their need to be right all the time.
Speaking to Chris Hayes Tuesday, Hunter repeated these same points and went on to discuss his revulsion at the events in McKinney, Texas, where a policeman manhandled a 14-year old girl. From his column:
A 14-year-old black girl attending a pool party in McKinney, Texas, had been manhandled and thrown to the ground by a police officer. The girl had done nothing except talk. She was just standing there with other teenagers.↓ Story continues below ↓
It was revolting to watch. I asked others to imagine it was their daughter.
The overwhelming response was that she was a “thug” who was “no saint” and needed to be taught “respect.” The comments were as revolting as the act—an adult mob praising the assault of a 100-pound, half-naked and scared black kid. I pleaded again for people to stop defending this. It got uglier.
It bothered me greatly, probably because at one time I might have done the same thing.
In my role as a conservative radio personality, I would’ve likely joined in in calling a group of excited black teenagers, or protesters, “thugs.” I might have called illegal immigrants criminals or worse. Muslims would’ve been slandered as terrorists.
Ugliness was a stock-in-trade.
I thought a big part of being conservative meant picking a “side” and attacking the other. I thought not caring what others thought or felt was part of it. Some of my Confederate flag debates certainly reflected that mentality.
I admit, the cynical side of me thinks this is more to rehabilitate Rand Paul (and Ron Paul) than it is anything else. But it's hard to adopt that as a pure point of view, given the sincerity I saw during the interview with Hayes.
It didn't feel insincere when he talked about that McKinney incident, or the shame he has when he looks back on what he used to do. I'm still not 100 percent sold, and I do think this is a way of trying to attract African-Americans into Rand Paul's camp,
But beyond that, I also understand from personal experience that when one makes a choice to stop reflexively hating and start thinking about what one does and says, it can be a moment of transformation and truth.
It is possible both are true. He may genuinely have turned away from hating and promoting white supremacist ideas and may also want to rehabilitate Rand Paul's reputation in the arena of race relations.
You make the call on that. Hunter's segment begins about 12 minutes into the video on the top.