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LBJ’s Civil Rights Act Irrevocably Changed U.S. Landscape

Memo Pad Politics

LBJ’s Civil Rights Act Irrevocably Changed U.S. Landscape


Last week, President Obama and civil rights luminaries went to the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. That legislation, signed in July 1964, was a stunning achievement, a herald of a dramatic transformation in the nation’s social and cultural landscape.

Yet the anniversary comes at a confusing moment in America’s racial journey. While a generation is growing up associating presidential power with a black man, evidence of a pernicious, race-infused backlash is inescapable. And bigotry played a role in the unjust shootings of two young black men, Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, who were almost certainly victims of racial profiling.

Few suggest, anymore, that the election of President Obama is evidence of a “post-racial” America in which no one notices skin color or takes into account racial and ethnic heritage. In fact, Obama’s rise has fueled the fears and hatred of a small but vocal minority who believe their America — a country run by and for white heterosexual Christians — is disappearing. If you think I’m exaggerating, just read Pat Buchanan’s 2011 screed, Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?

It is easy enough to be pessimistic. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, who has conducted research on diverse communities, told me he was surprised that Obama’s election had seemed to revive racism rather than quelling it. That revival plays itself out quite vividly in our national politics, where a retrograde faction of the Republican Party dedicates itself to the notion that, if racism still exists, white people are its victims.

Still, it would be foolishly myopic to argue that little has changed in the half-century since President Johnson arm-twisted the Civil Rights Act into history. I’m old enough to remember a landscape that was much more hostile to black Americans, that conspired to limit us in ways too myriad to count. Black and brown millennials don’t know what it means to be refused service in a restaurant, to be shoved to the back to the bus, to be turned away at a hotel because of skin color, to be ushered to a separate (and often filthy) restroom. And their white counterparts would rightly find such policies absurd.

Cynthia Tucker Haynes

Cynthia Tucker Haynes, a veteran newspaper journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner, is a Visiting Professor of Journalism and Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Georgia. She is also a highly-regarded commentator on TV and radio news shows.

Haynes was editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper for 17 years, where she led the development of opinion policy. More recently, she was that newspaper’s Washington-based political columnist. She maintains a syndicated column through Universal Press Syndicate, which is published in dozens of newspapers around the country. Besides winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007, Haynes has also received numerous other awards, including Journalist of the Year from the National Association of Black Journalists.

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  1. idamag April 12, 2014

    “”Redskins Beat Jazz.” “What about Benghazi?” “CDC Cruise Ship Making People Sick.” “What about Benghazi?” “French Find Weapons in Northern Mall.” “What About Benghazi?” “Ukrine’s Prime Minister Goes on Verbal Offensive.” “What About Benghazi?” “Obama Paid $98,000 in Taxes in 2013.” “What about George Soros.” “BP Oil Cleanup Volunteers Say Work Ruined Health.” “What About George Soros?” Okay, that should save the whack jobs a lot of time. About the white supremists that come on with name-calling, those cowardly bullies aren’t worth helping.

  2. idamag April 12, 2014

    Racism has never been dead in this country. People, I know, and myself have gone to the south and witnessed it. That is why they vote solid Republican. A Democrat signed the Civil Rights Act into law.

    1. ralphkr April 13, 2014

      I agree, idamag, that racism has never been dead and for an excellent reason. Racism stems from a very valuable human survival instinct, i.e., fear of the unknown. The only humans who survived to have progeny were those who INSTANTLY shied away from or attacked anything new and that fear of the unknown/different is what leads to racism. Those humans without that instinct died out…after all, how many early humans do you think would survive who, when they saw a cave bear the first time thought, “Oooh, soft & fuzzy. I am going to hug it.” (and that put paid to the very first non-racists)

      1. idamag April 13, 2014

        So now that you’ve determined it is genetic to be racist, that excuses it? If it is genetic, how come it seems that low IQ people are more likely to be racist?

        1. ralphkr April 13, 2014

          I merely said that racism is an outgrowth of primitive human survival instinct but I never said that in today’s world that it is excusable any more than immediately violently attacking anything new and unusual which is part of the same “fight or flight” embedded deep within human brains. I believe you answered your own question since, on average, low IQ people are also more likely to be violent than high IQ people. One must always keep in mind that civilization is but a thin veneer over natural human actions.

          1. idamag April 14, 2014

            Working with children, I didn’t see any evidence of racism in the children. But, I have seen people who distrust anyone different than they are.remember a woman, I worked with. The missionaries, in her church, had baptized a young couple, from India. She told me they came and sit by her in church and she moved. Her reason? Her words, “You never can tell.” She also cautioned her high school daughter to not even take a stick of gum from a fellow student as it might have LSD on it. My daughter went to school with her daughter and the kids thought her daughter was strange. That was learned behavior. My question and this is a question not an argument: If a person is leery of someone who is a different race, is that racism or does it become racist when that person persecutes the person of a different race?

          2. Paul Bass April 14, 2014

            It is still racism, but it might be somewhat unconscious, i.e. a learned behavior from our childhood.
            Just being “leery” of someone different categorizes them into that “suspicious other” box, and therefore we rightly (?) mistrust them.
            It takes effort to NOT be racist, and thanks for trying!

          3. ralphkr April 14, 2014

            I certainly would not consider being leery of someone as racism (that is merely being cautious) but I would consider taking action against someone merely because they are of a different race as being racism.

  3. paperpushermj April 12, 2014

    Lets be Clear, Racism will be with Humankind forever. It’s Institutionalized Racism in this Country that has been Mostly Weeded Out.

  4. paulyz April 12, 2014

    With Obama & the Democrats reeling from he disastrous Obamacare, they make desperate attempts at the racism propaganda again, and the income-“inequality”. Do you know how much racism there is by minorities towards Whites, blaming them for all their problems? Most of their problems are because of Liberal policies of government dependence. Ever hear of reverse discrimination? Well I sure have, I have been screwed out of a firefighter position that I had passed fairly with top scores, only to have the test thrown out because no minorities were in the top 10. So I never got that position that I had wanted for many years.

    1. charleo1 April 13, 2014

      Did you ever consider, the biggest lies we’ll ever tell, we reserve for
      ourselves? Since you’re mostly non-communicative, I’ll assume you
      will have nothing further to add to these statements. But your posts are not atypical of the White Protestant, American male. And do reveal a certain view of the world, not uncommon among your demographic. It’s what your Grand Old Party uses to play you like a
      fiddle. It’s these themes they employ, to speak to who they believe you are. To keep you voting in their best interests, and not your own.
      In other words, it’s how they sell you their policies, By aligning their rhetoric with the same racial, and socio-economic tropes, that unbeknownst to you, they, and maybe your parents also, taught you
      since you were a child. It was the reason the Country needed a Civil
      Rights Act in the first place. And you’re part of the reason, we still
      need need the Act today. Maybe one day, hopefully we’ll outgrow the need for a law that only requires we do what we know we should do without a law. Which is to truly open up the franchise of freedom, and equality to all Americans. But until that happens, there are always going to be a certain amount of unfairness in the opposite direction. Laws are never perfect. But, if indeed you failed at becoming whatever it was you dreamed of becoming, because a law was necessary, and laws are never perfect. It wasn’t worth the continued institutionalization of the prejudice of Jim Crow, that had unfairly obliterated the hopes, and dreams of untold millions of African Americans in this Country, for 150 years. So, before we can think of dispensing of this imperfect law, we must all first correctly identify the victim. Then, adjust our thinking, and allow our behavior to reflect our new found appreciations, of what it means to be a truly free, and equal people. Not only in the eyes of the law, but in our hearts.

      1. idamag April 13, 2014

        pauly is not worth your response. We have had liars on these boards and we have had hateful people. People who just spout negativity are cowards in real life and they enjoy hurting people. Somehow, pauly thinks you are emotionally tied to the president and thus he is hurting your feelings. A person who had a real criticism would criticize the actions, not throw out a bunch of hate-filled nuttiness.

    2. Independent1 April 13, 2014

      I feel very sorry for you! You are a very misguided person. You’ve allowed the absolutely corrupt Republican party to brainwash you.

      Nothing you have ever posted on the NM has been the truth. And what’s sad is, I think you’re so misguided that you don’t realize it.

      Just as an example, here’s a recent article from CNN on the 317 million reasons we should all be glad about Obamacare – it is clearly not a disastrous law as you so misguidedly state:

      (CNN) (3/31/2014) — More than 6 million Americans signed up for
      Obamacare before the March 31 deadline to get private health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. This is great news for the Obama administration.

      But there are millions more reasons to celebrate Obamacare. Actually, at the writing of this essay, there are more than 317 million reasons — because that’s the population of the United States of America and every single one of us can benefit from health care reform.

      How? Here’s a rundown by the numbers:

      3.1 million
      That’s how many young adults can get coverage because of the provision in Obamacare that allows them to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26.

      105 million
      That’s how many Americans no longer have lifetime expense caps, whether it’s because they have chronic illnesses or because their insurance company set restrictive policies.

      6.1 million
      That’s how many Americans with Medicare Part D no longer have to go through the “doughnut hole” coverage gap. This means seniors can save more than $5.7 billion on prescription drugs.

      3.2 million
      That’s the number of small businesses estimated to be eligible for tax credits for providing health insurance to their 19.3 million employees nationwide, credits worth $15.4 billion in 2011 alone.

      4.4 million
      That’s how many low-income adults will now have access to health insurance thanks to states implementing the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare; an additional 5.8 million poor adults would be included in this count if 25 mostly Republican-led states weren’t refusing Medicaid expansion.

      50 to 129 million
      That’s how many people will benefit from the Obamacare provision that eliminates all bars for coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Studies say that anywhere from 19% to 50% of
      non-elderly Americans have health conditions that could qualify as pre-existing conditions.

      49.4 million
      That’s how many current Medicare enrollees can feel secure knowing that, under Obamacare, existing Medicare benefits can neither be reduced nor taken away.

      317 million
      — That’s how many Americans — i.e., all of us — potentially benefit from the requirement that insurance companies provide flu shots, HIV screenings, prostate exams, mammograms and FDA-approved contraception for free, without a co-pay.

      — Plus, we all benefit from new requirements that insurance companies must spend at least 80% of our premium dollars on our health care as opposed to marketing or administration.

      — We all benefit from the new requirement that insurance companies publicly justify their actions if they want to raise premiums by 10% or more.

      — We all benefit from knowing that our insurance can now never be capped or canceled at the whim of insurance companies.

    3. Independent1 April 13, 2014

      And here’s more on Obamacare that refutes a good bit of the lies and distortions about Obamacare being spewed by the GOP:

      As high quality care is maintained while costs may go down because of improved coverage and access, we all benefit from a more affordable and effective health care system.

      What about, you ask, the estimated 4.7 million Americans who lost their current insurance plans during the rollout of Obamacare? Well, according to a congressional report, 2.35 million or so can take advantage of the Obama administration’s decision to grandfather those plans through 2014.

      Another 1.4 million qualify for Medicaid expansion or subsidies in the Obamacare exchanges. On top of that, the Obama administration has agreed that a “hardship exemption” built into health care reform for any American facing major challenges in complying with the law would be interpreted to include those whose policies had been canceled. In other words, they won’t be penalized.

      When Republicans rolled out stories of alleged Obamacare victims, the details were usually debunked in some way. The truth is that many of the canceled plans were no longer legal under Obamacare because they neither covered the basic things insurance should cover or, worse, were dangerously designed to explode the minute the insured got sick: what Consumer Reports has called “junk insurance.”

      Arguing that people should be able to keep these plans is like arguing that people should still be allowed to drive defective Chevy Cobalts or cars without seat belts. Like it or not, the government’s job is to help keep us safe and insurance companies that were peddling shoddy products were doing the opposite.

      Polls show most Americans want to keep Obamacare and work to fix it rather than replace or get rid of health care reform altogether. And there’s much to suggest support for Obamacare would be even higher were it not for constant Republican attacks and misinformation about the law.

      After all, when Americans find out what specific provisions are included in Obamacare, they overwhelmingly support them. Eighty percent support the extension of dependent coverage, 79% support closing the Medicare “doughnut hole,” 77% support eliminating out-of-pocket costs for preventive services, 74% support the expansion of Medicaid. These Obamacare components are even supported by a majority of Republicans.

      And it’s still early. As more Americans access private health insurance choices through the exchange marketplace, receive care minus the discrimination and dirty tricks that insurance companies could get away with in the past, we’ll see more people getting the medicine they need, screened for cancer sooner in more treatable stages and pay less for good care.

      Every day, as we all see the benefits of health care reform in our lives, support for Obamacare will grow stronger. Before long, not even the most partisan Republicans will be able to attack it.

      1. charleo1 April 13, 2014

        You know what I think? I think it’s too bad Obama didn’t
        know about you, before he replaced Sebelius!

    4. JPHALL April 13, 2014

      So how does it feel to be discriminated against? Image that having happened multiple times over your lifetime. Open your mind to the real world that other people have to live in. Do not blame others for your close mindedness.

      1. Sand_Cat April 14, 2014

        You’re asking Pauly to imagine? Sorry, think you’re asking too much.
        He needs someone to feed him his delusions.

  5. charles king April 12, 2014

    I feel sorry for the People that carry Racism in their heart because they will die with it interioed in their bones that has to be a very sad feeling. I am a (85 years old Black American who has dodged many slings and arrows from the anti-black americans) I have a six year old great, great grandchild Who? i asked one day What? ” do you want to be When you become a man” His reply was, ” I want to be the President of the United States ” Man ! WOW ! was all I could say, Now thats progress. Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. Mr. C. E. KING

    1. charleo1 April 13, 2014

      Mr. King, being 85 years of age, you have endured the kind of overt
      racism, and deep rooted prejudice, most Americans living today are
      not aware. Yes, there are great books, and vivid descriptions, and we celebrate the victories of Dr, King, and shun as best we can the reminents of what once ruled the world of your early manhood, in much, if not most of Pre-Civil Rights America. But we that didn’t live
      in that time. And cannot fully appreciate the evil, and the ugliness, and the accepted, and the disrespect, you were expected to smilingly endure. That was so much a part of that world, it was as thought no more innocuous, than the air being breathed. So oblivious to your plight, were the vast majority of White America. Now, no doubt in their innermost thought suspected, and knew even. But back then, it was so easy to turn away. To accept that, well things are as they are for a reason. And what can I be expected to do? I don’t hate, “them.” They are being treated better now. Aren’t they? Being nearly 60 myself, I have one foot on either side of the Civil Rights Act. Remembering as a child the vitriol, and anger of my parents at Dr. King, and LBJ. It wasn’t until in high school when I began reading about all these things, that I came to understand how wrong my parents, and all the basically good people that inhabited my early childhood world had been. And how all this had taken much sorting out. The realization that my parents were human, and were as subject to be completely wrong, and be completely unaware of it, as anyone. Even me! But I do applaud your lack of bitterness, and great attitude toward all your fellow man. We should all know what you know, Mr. King. And, all be so strong.

    2. plc97477 April 14, 2014

      I don’t pity them because they are not forced into that mind set. No one has made them hateful against their will.

  6. robertbenefiel@att.net April 13, 2014

    I really wish that racism was confined to one region of the country but it sure isn’t. I Harvard student did a study on racism using many different factors. While a number of deep Southern states rated high in racism, the number one state on the list was West Virginia. Also, high on the list was Penn., Ohio, and Michigan. Western states believe it or not were shown to be more tolerant of other people not like themselves.

    1. Independent1 April 13, 2014

      Maybe folks out west are on average more intelligent than those of us here in the east. A study done by LiveScience seems to show that prejudice (rascism), is generally manifested by low IQ and conservativism:

      See this:

      Low IQ & Conservative Beliefs Linked to Prejudice

      There’s no gentle way to put it: People who give in to racism and prejudice may simply be dumb, according to a new study that is bound to stir public controversy.

      The research finds that children with low intelligence are more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. These findings point to a vicious cycle, according to lead researcher Gordon Hodson, a psychologist at Brock University in Ontario. Low-intelligence adults tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, the study found. Those ideologies, in turn, stress hierarchy and resistance to change, attitudes that can contribute to prejudice, Hodson wrote in an email to LiveScience.

      “Prejudice is extremely complex and multifaceted, making it critical that any factors contributing to bias are uncovered and understood,” he said.


      1. idamag April 13, 2014

        You are right. I am a member of the Southern Poverty Law Center. They keep a close watch on hate groups. They print pictures of them in their publications. You can see that they are low IQ. BTW, white supremist groups doubled after Obama became president. That shows that a lot of this hatred for the president stems from racism.

    2. idamag April 13, 2014

      The difference is in whether it is overt and hurtful. That trends more in some regions than others. Of course I know people who are racist, here in the Northwest. They usually are poorly educated people who have never known a person of a different race personally. They limit their racism to name calling among themselves as they will get the look from others if they get too loud about it.

  7. Angel Perea April 13, 2014

    THE INCONVENIENT TRUTH: Regarding RACISM in politics, unfortunately its back to the future! Speaking as an informed and independent intelligent Voter, I have a message for Republican tea party. Let’s exam their Grand achievements since the last election. I recall the Close down of our Govt. and the later give away payments to those Fed. workers that did not work with a result of wasted cost of $26K in Tax payer funds. Second, the record Obstruction votes there has been no Veterans Benefits Bill nor Job Creation legislation for Middle Class Americans; Lack of concern and failure to act on any Job creation, the clowns obstructed passage of unemployed middle class Americans including Vets that can’t find jobs. And finally, now they refuse to establish a reasonable living minimum Wage so that Working American can earn something just above the poverty level to support their
    families! So it is going to take more than blame game on their FAVOR TARGET, THAT BLACK GUY IN THE WHITE HOUSE with their modern political racial political attacks just like KKK used. Do you really think that most thinking Americans are that stupid?

    1. Paul Bass April 14, 2014

      As Al Smith said long ago, ‘ we need MORE then just the “thinking Americans” or we LOSE’!
      I agree with all that you say Angel, to bad the voters in this off-year election are likely to be the easily fooled, low IQ, tea-party folks…

  8. robertbenefiel@att.net April 13, 2014

    It is very true that racism will be with us for the foreseeable future. A study was conducted to measure racism and the root of its existence. It was conducted in Canada with little children who had virtually no contact with anyone not similar to themselves. Parents were screened for no signs of overt racism. When they showed the children pictures of people not like themselves, for example, dark skinned people along with light skinned people, and asked to assign attributes to the people the children would assign the negative words to the dark skinned people and the good terms to the light skinned people. The children were very young, something like four (4) years of age. Of course, this is not to say that racism is inevitable but there must be work to overcome our prejudices. Education, laws, etc.

    1. idamag April 13, 2014

      Name of this study? How long did it go on? Who conducted it? Were they absolutely sure that no body language seeped in? The reason I ask is that I worked with children for years and they are not naturally prejudiced. It is a learned behavior. The children, I knew, never differentiated. I was visiting a woman, years ago, and she saw her son playing with a little boy. When the son came in, she asked what the little Oriental boy’s name was. Her four-year-old said, “He’s not Oriental. They came from Cambodia.”

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