Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 19, 2019

Do we really have to welcome all to our state parks?

The South prides itself on being welcoming, my native Mississippi going so far as to officially bill itself as “the Hospitality State.” In general, it serves us well.

But Tennessee might be a little too hospitable.

On May 17-19, the “white advocacy” group American Renaissance is holding its annual conference at Montgomery Bell State Park for the eighth time since 2012. On the last weekend of June, the American Freedom Party and the Council of Conservative Citizens will jointly settle into Montgomery Bell for the second year in a row.

Not familiar with those last two groups? The noted former Klan kook David Duke is a featured speaker, also for the second year in a row. Get the picture?

The two get-togethers are not unusual. A 2017 article in The Tennessean reported:

“In the last seven years, at least 14 white supremacist and white nationalist gatherings have been held at state park facilities, according to interviews with the groups’ leaders and archived postings on their websites.”

In addition to those mentioned, the visitors included Stormfront, the National Socialist Movement, White Lives Matter, the Southern National Congress and assorted Klan cliques.

I invite you to Google any of those, should you desire further introduction. You will not come away inclined to think more highly of your fellow man.

And you needn’t bother to do so for American Renaissance, because I’ve done it for you. Its website would have you believe that it consists of serious, scholarly types, devoted to the study of the racial divide with an eye toward finding solutions acceptable to all persons of sound reason.

“This approach is known as race realism,” the website states.

I invite your skepticism of that term.

In a recent post by the group’s founder, Jared Taylor, he purports to denounce the killings of 50 Muslims in New Zealand mosques last month as “a horrible act of mass murder.” But he does so in the course of arguing that people should read the killer’s 74-page justification for his actions before making up their minds unfairly.

The killer, Taylor wrote, understandably believes “that whites have the right to remain a majority in their countries, a right they share with all other peoples.”

“Every day’s news opens the eyes of yet more whites to the long-term crisis of survival they face,” he goes on. “They will not quietly resign themselves to oblivion.”

It’s all familiar stuff, presented in such a way as to suggest that one has to expect the occasional outburst of murderous violence when legitimate discourse on race is stymied by political elites and compliant media.

Whites beware, is pretty much the message. They’re coming to take your country away.

That’s a particularly rich notion to propose in this country, given that it was founded by waves of white folks who took it away from the indigenous red people by hook, crook, firearms and disease.

The far-right, all-white fringe rabble are not the kind of folks you’d have over for a friendly cookout. So why put out the state welcome mat for them?

No choice.

Private businesses, like hotels, can and do turn them away. But the state is “legally required to provide access” for any group wanting to use park facilities, according to a parks spokesman, Eric Ward, quoted in that same 2017 Tennessean article.

I had some questions for Ward to help flesh that out a bit, but on the advice of lawyers, he told me he couldn’t comment on any of them “due to ongoing litigation.”

It seems last year the state started imposing a 10 percent refundable security fee on group reservations – in addition to the standard facility rental costs – to cover any additional expenses incurred by the state for extra staffing and such.

American Renaissance has sued, calling the fee unconstitutional.

Fish and visitors, Ben Franklin wryly observed, smell in three days. Some visitors smell sooner.

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com.