On Reparations: John F. Kennedy vs. Robert F. Kennedy
When did the civil rights movement go off the rails?
The answer is when proponents went from justly demanding equal rights to unjustly demanding equal results. As to exactly when this occurred, that’s more difficult to answer. But consider statements, made five years apart, from the Kennedy brothers, John F. and Robert F.
Neither brother was asked about nor used the word “reparations.” But during an August 1963 press conference, a reporter asked President John Kennedy about “special dispensation” for Blacks: “Mr. President, some Negro leaders are saying that, like the Jews persecuted by the Nazis, the Negro is entitled to some kind of special dispensation for the pain of second-class citizenship over these many decades and generations. What is your view of that in general, and what is your view in particular on the specific point that they are recommending of job quotas by race?”
That same year, National Urban League Executive Director Whitney Young proposed a 10-year “domestic Marshall Plan” for Blacks to make up for past discrimination. His board of directors opposed it. The president of the Pittsburgh Urban League chapter said the public would ask: “What in blazes are these guys up to? They tell us for years that we must buy (nondiscrimination) and then they say, ‘It isn’t what we want.'”
Five years later, Sen. Robert Kennedy announced his candidacy for president. He said: “I run to seek new policies — policies to end the bloodshed in Vietnam and in our cities, policies to close the gaps that now exist between Black and white.”
“Policies to close the gaps that now exist between Black and white”? In 1940, 87 percent of Blacks lived below the poverty level. By 1960, that number dropped to 47 percent, a 40-point drop in 20 years, the greatest 20 years of economic growth for Blacks in American history. Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down “separate but equal,” was not decided until 1954. This sharp decline in Black poverty preceded the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
John Kennedy was right. We cannot undo the past. But by teaching Blacks to see themselves as victims deserving of “reparations” from today’s white “oppressors,” we can certainly make the present and future worse.
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