Rep. Tom Tancredo displays all the qualities of an ignorant, xenophobic racist and yet he has recently taken a stand against what he considers to be discrimination. Last week, the long-shot candidate for the Republican nomination in 2008 called for the abolition of both the Hispanic and Black caucuses in Congress. Tancredo claimed, “If we are serious about the goal of a color-blind society, Congress should lead by example and end these divisive, race-based caucuses.” To say that Tancredo is a peculiar figure to pontificate on the virtues of unity and color-blindness is probably one of the understatements of the year.

Tancredo (R-CO) has made his name as an anti-immigration zealot, championing all the most extreme positions on the issue and saying the most uproariously offensive things in the process. “Look at what has happened to Miami,” Tancredo said after last November’s elections, “It has become a third world country. You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You’d never know you’re in the United States of America.”

Even more alarming was his appearance revealed last September by the Southern Poverty Law Center at a barbecue hosted by the South Carolina chapter of League of the South (LOS), a group that prides itself in defending and celebrating the Confederacy and everything it stood for. At $15 per plate fundraiser Tancredo appeared at a podium draped in the Confederate flag with a portrait of Robert E. Lee behind him. By the end of this speech Tancredo was flanked by LOS members and he joined them in singing “Dixie”. Tancredo said that there’s nothing wrong with singing what is seen by most African Americans as a hateful ode to slavery “if the spirit moves you.”

When grilled about this appearance Tancredo remained characteristically defiant and insensitive. He explained that he’d given his anti-immigration pep talk at several different venues and that “I don’t check people at the door for their private thoughts.” But what are his private thoughts? At the South Carolina rally Tancredo was spotted holding a copy of The Citizen’s Informer, which is the newspaper of the Conservative Citizens Council, an overtly racist organization that is reported to be the product of the segregationist White Citizens Councils of the 1950’s. Tancredo has claimed not to know the history of these groups.

He also clearly does not comprehend the history or value of the Congressional Black or Hispanic caucuses. Until there is a more substantial balance of races within our Congress the members representing communities largely consisting of minorities will be at something of a disadvantage in what has always been a body dominated by white men. The ability of these groups of representatives unite and take positions that are beneficial to their constituents provides them with a leverage and power that they would not be able to attain otherwise. These are not hate groups, something Rep. Tancredo knows a thing or two about.