JFK's racial calculus

JFK's racial calculus

Kennedy’s civil rights legacy is an enduring and deserved fact, despite the many myths surrounding it

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson 11/20/2013

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Kennedy’s civil rights legacy is an enduring and deserved fact, despite the many myths surrounding it

There’s been as much myth as fact regarding John F. Kennedy’s civil rights legacy in the 50 years since his assassination on Nov. 22, 1963. 

In the days before he delivered his famous presidential inaugural address on Friday, Jan. 20, 1961, two of his principal advisers, Louis Martin and Harris Wofford, battled hard to get Kennedy to add the words “at home” to a pivotal sentence in his speech that addressed human rights. 

Kennedy meant the human rights fight that the US waged internationally against communism. The “at home” referred to the battle for civil rights in America. Kennedy added the words, but his reluctance to do so typified the wariness that he had in making civil rights a centerpiece of his presidency.

The myth and fact about his civil rights legacy came jarringly together in the quip from his widow Jackie Kennedy about his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.

“He didn’t even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights,” she said.

During the national trauma that followed the murder, Jackie understood that her husband’s place in history would be even more firmly established if he was seen as the civil rights president, rather than as a president who was forced under extreme duress to champion civil rights.

In the decade before he won the White House, Kennedy said almost nothing about civil rights. In 1957, as a US senator, he voted against a civil rights bill. His opposition has been spun two ways; one cynical, one charitable. The cynical spin is he opposed it to appease Southern Democrats because he had an eye on a presidential run in 1960. The charitable spin is that he thought the bill was too weak and ineffectual. Three years later, he ignored angry shouts from Southern Democrats and lobbied for a forceful civil rights plank in the Democratic Party’s 1960 platform.
 
During the presidential campaign he publicly pledged to end segregation in federally subsidized public housing “with the stroke of a pen.” Despite a mass campaign for him to keep his promise, he foot-dragged for months in signing the order. This was not hypocrisy or racial faint-heartedness. There was a brutal political calculus at work. 

In 1961, Southern Democrats, all staunch segregationists, had an iron grip on the House of Representatives. They held 11 of 19 committee chairmanships and dominated two-thirds of the Senate’s standing committees. Kennedy did not have anything near a governing mandate to prod, cajole and arm-twist Southern racial obstructionists in Congress following his nail-biter 1960 presidential election win over Richard Nixon. 
But if he had that mandate, would he do those things? The answer is probably a qualified no. His expertise, passion and focus then were on foreign policy, more particularly, trying to contain if not best the Soviet Union on everything from the nuclear arms and space races to influence in emerging Third World nations.

The bloody desegregation clashes at the University of Mississippi and the violent assaults on freedom riders in Alabama, however, could not be ignored. But even here there was a hard political reality that struggled for attention side by side with the moral implications. African-American voters made a major difference in Kennedy’s narrow election win over Nixon, aided in large part by a massive black voter shift to him in direct response to his famed phone call to Dr. Martin Luther King’s family following King’s jailing in Georgia for contempt of court stemming from a civil rights protest. Kennedy had a keen eye on the black vote and its potential to be a crucial factor in future national elections. That included his almost certain reelection bid in 1964.

The tipping point was the spectacle of women and children being beaten, hosed and gassed by brutal white cops in Birmingham in 1963. The barbarous scenes were beamed around the globe. That and the eloquent, heart-wrenching letter and appeal by Dr. King from his Birmingham jail cell propelled Kennedy to do what he had long been urged to do and deliver the definitive statement on civil rights. He did so on June 11, 1963, piggybacking on the sentiments King expressed in his letter about rights, justice, inequality and the moral and political shame and disgrace caused to the nation by racial bigotry. 

King and civil rights leaders applauded Kennedy’s words. But King also saw more political pragmatism than moral outrage in it. He quipped that Kennedy was “battling for the minds and the hearts of men in Asia and Africa.” This was probably true. Yet equally true was that it didn’t much matter whether Kennedy was motivated by pragmatism or idealism, crisis or conscience. He had spoken, and this marked the major turning point for the nation on civil rights.

If Kennedy had lived, would he have fought hard for passage of the landmark civil rights bill of 1964, or would he have been stonewalled by his party’s racists and forced to accept a watered-down bill? 

An assassin’s bullet insured that that question will remain forever unanswered. Fifty years after that horrific November day in Dallas, Kennedy’s civil rights legacy is an enduring and deserved fact, despite the many myths surrounding it. 

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, an author and political analyst, is a frequent MSNBC contributor and an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of “The Al Sharpton Show” on American Urban Radio Network and hosts of the weekly “Hutchinson Report” on KTYM AM 1460 radio in Los Angeles and KPFK-FM 90.7 radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson.

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Comments

Where did America's cultural ideology of racism come from? Why, from "The Bible," of coarse! While the Jesus-story was an adoptive hijacking of Judaism's questionably original "true-prince-conquers-the-world" fantasy, BOTH Christianity's and Islam's patriarchal line of deity-dispensed authenticity incontestably has its Genesis in the "Hebrew" scriptures. Basically, without Abraham, the prophets of these other two dependent religions devolve without a heaven-sent mandate.
http://askwhy.co.uk/
http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/

Meanwhile, the institutional messiah-wannabes of Zionland game both "Gentile" faiths for their own, conquistadorial agenda(s). And as far as world-conquest is concerned? In that the current Ashkenazi rulers of fascist Israel truly believe that there is no second prize, they will pre-emptively utilize their own (originally self-defensive) "Samson-Option" as their fait accompli of an accomplished global domination.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samson_Opti...
http://www.jewwatch.com/jew-atrocities-n...

Ultimately, if Zionland's YHWH-adopting crypto-Khazars don't get their way, then they've decided that nobody else can play with the little-blue-marble of Earth either. And the religiously insane Zionist hijackers of Talmudic Judaism do have the explosive control of as many as 500 nuclear devices.
http://www.veteransnewsnow.com/2013/11/2...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_and_...

Dand

posted by DanD on 11/24/13 @ 07:50 p.m.
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