White supremacist Richard Barrett was murdered in his home in Mississippi April 22, allegedly by a young black man.
He was stabbed and then his body set on fire. I had expected that karma would have brought him a miserable departure from this earth, but I’m upset that his story ends with the kind of narrative that only serves to augment Barrett’s prominence among those who believe in racial inequality.
Why do I care? Well, Mr. Barrett and I have a bit of history.
When I was a student at Ole Miss in the 90s, I had the displeasure of frequent run-ins with Barrett, who was known for being an attention-seeking racist. The first was when I interviewed him for an article that appeared in the Daily Mississippian. He was angry about one of the many signs of racial progress on campus, I can’t remember which.
Following that interview and my subsequent rise at the newspaper, Mr. Barrett sent me many letters, each espousing his view that the University did not need negroes like me challenging the true American way. When I was selected editor of the paper in 1998, he left me several ranting voicemails expressing his anger over my selection (I’m stating this politely).
I met Mr. Barrett again when he visited the Ole Miss campus with a group, including some self-proclaimed Klansmen, to protest efforts by several student leaders and then football coach Tommy Tuberville to rid football games of the tens of thousands of confederate flags that fans waved in support of the team – it was tradition, opponents maintained. Barrett later sued the university for infringing on his free speech.
It seems I was something of a thorn in Mr. Barrett’s side. He closely monitored everything I wrote and sent me regular rebuttals. When his group, The Nationalists launched a website, one of his first posts was a scathing column about me, in which he refers to me as a refugee descendant of slaves from the Negro island of Dominica – one of the most uncivilized places on earth. This article is still a prominent part of my Internet identity and pops up with a simple Google search for my name.
I keep Mr. Barrett’s hateful letters along with one that supposedly came from David Duke and several others like them in a memory box. I pondered letting his death pass without acknowledging it, but Richard Barrett is part of my American story. It would probably make him roll over in his still-undug grave to see the word American before my name