Professor William Chafe Seminar Part 3

Professor William Chafe Seminar Part 3


PROFESSOR WILLIAM CHAFE:
Finally though, he can’t avoid it any longer
because the Birmingham Demonstrations take place. And kids are being fire hosed,
and they’re being beaten, and police dogs are
biting them, and pictures are going all over the country. And finally, the
Civil Rights Movement forces John Kennedy to act. He doesn’t initiate it. He was compelled to respond
because things are just falling apart. And it’s at that point
that John Kennedy goes on national
television and says, this is an issue as
moral as there is. It’s as old as the scriptures. And who among us
would want to be born a Negro given the
circumstances their people face. And that then led to the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, which dismantled segregation. Destroyed segregation. And outlawed economic
discrimination based on race, opening up all
kinds of new opportunities. But it also outlawed
discrimination based on sex. And before I get to
that part of the story, it also ultimately led to the
Voting Rights Act of 1965. Which enfranchised
all those people who lost the vote in 1900. And now, instead of having
5% to 8% of African Americans being able to vote in the South,
you had 75% to 85% voting. Revolution. Dramatic change. Now, women had been
mobilizing too. But women, they
had all gone back to work after they were
forced back to the house. Most of those women
who’d been forced back to the house in ’46,
’47 went back to work. And they were still married
women, middle-aged women, women with kids. By 1960, you’ve got almost
twice the number of women working, percentage-wise,
you had in 1940. And you’ve got essentially
a contradiction between the notion
that women’s place is in the home and the reality
that most women are not in the home. That doesn’t lead to
a social movement yet. That comes, really,
with the Civil Rights Movement in two ways. First of all, it helps to create
the foundation for someone like Betty Friedan to write
“The Feminine Mystique,” which becomes a bible for
feminists who are already established adults. Many of them employed,
some of them career women. And they form an
organization called the National
Organization for Women, which is just like the NAACP. But the younger women who
are the Civil Rights Movement get ticked off
because of the way in which they’re treated by
the men of the Civil Rights Movement. Because they’re expected to
clean up, wash the dishes, make the coffee, but not be part
of the decision-making process. So they create the Women’s
Liberation Movement. Now by 1967, you’ve got some
major changes happening. In 1962, a Gallup
poll saw that two out of three women in America
said, we’re happy where we are. In 1970, 50/50. 1974, 2/3 of American women
saying, things gotta change, they gotta change now. And so we have a huge number
of changes taking place, and attitudes. Women now, for the
first time, are aspiring to– because they’re
demanding opportunities to join careers. They are refusing
to simply accept the fact they have to be
teachers and nurses, if they want to go into careers. And then they become part of a
movement which gradually takes over the country in
terms of attitudes, in terms of
expectations, in terms of the aspirations of women. So it’s a huge amount
of changes taking place among both African
Americans and women. But it’s not taking place
in a structural way. You do have the new
legislation, which opens up economic opportunities
for both women and African Americans. And that leads to huge changes. The number of African
Americans going to college increases 500%
between 1967 and 1987. That’s a huge increase. The black middle class
opens up, so that by 1990 50% of African Americans
are in the middle class. African Americans
in Congress, you have 40 African Americans
in Congress at this point. The same thing’s
happening to women. Women now constitute the
majority of American workers. And by 1990, 50%
of all the students in law school, business school,
and medical school are women. Whereas 30 years
earlier, the cap is 5%. 5% to 50%, that’s a
pretty big change. And more and more women
are in executive positions. But with both African
Americans and women, you’re talking about a whole
persistence of continued segregation and discrimination. Because there’s a whole bottom
half of the population who have not seen any significant
change take place whatsoever. You still have a 30% poverty
rate among African Americans and Latinos. You have a huge increase in
the feminization of poverty, in which the vast
majority of poor people are women and children. You have the phenomenon
of single motherhood, which was transformed most
of our minority communities. You have the fact that
80% of all women who are working– and don’t forget
the majority of all workers now– 80% are working
just 5% of the jobs. Which means there are
a whole bunch of jobs that are defined
as women’s jobs, but not jobs– women can’t
compete for men’s jobs. And you basically have
a situation in which, if you have the education,
if you have the foundation to take advantage of the
rights that have been won as a consequence of the
post-World War II developments, then you can really
be successful. You can be an
individual who makes it. If you don’t, you essentially
see no difference in your life. You’re condemned to poverty. You’re condemned to a serious
amount of income inequality. Now politically, what’s going
on all during this period is interesting. Because the last time you
really have a significant effort to address social problems
through the government is in the 1960s. And this is John F Kennedy
and Lyndon Johnson. And Lyndon Johnson
especially, the Great Society. It’s Lyndon Johnson who
passes the Civil Rights Act, who passes the
Voting Rights Act, who passes the war on poverty. Who creates Medicare, medical
care for senior citizens. Who creates model cities. Who works on the environment. Who does a huge amount,
it is the high point of domestic legislation in
all of American history. It actually makes the New
Deal pale by comparison. But Lyndon Johnson does
something else which you’re all too much aware of. Lyndon Johnson,
because he’s part of the paradigm of the Cold War
and the notion you can never compromise with
insurrections that appear to be
communist-inspired, increases the number of American troops in
Vietnam from 15,000 to 540,000. And we know how many
contributions to that number of soldiers Australia made. And so basically the wind is
taken out of that balloon. And all that domestic progress
basically gets put on hold. And in 1968 you
have a new president elected named Richard Nixon,
who says he has a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. Didn’t exist, but said
he had a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. And he sets out
really in many ways to dismantle what
had been achieved. He sets out to eliminate
the war on poverty. He sets out to move backwards
some of the progress in civil rights. And he essentially says, there’s
really no more need for reform. We’ve done all we need to do. Now let’s just pay attention
to making our economy vibrant. We know the Nixon, in some
ways, was a brilliant president because of what he did with
China and foreign affairs. He also presided over
more people being lost in Vietnam than had
been lost there before, his secret plan. But he also made the terrible
mistake of committing a crime and then trying to cover it up. And engaging the kind
of subterfuge which led to his forced
resignation in 1974. The interesting thing is
that, even though we then have a Democrat elected
president after Gerald Ford becomes president,
his vice president. There’s no real change
in the philosophy. Jimmy Carter is not
a liberal Democrat. Jimmy Carter does very
little on economic issues. Now Jimmy Carter was
accused by one person of being the most conservative
Democrat in the White House since Grover Cleveland
who was 1884 to 1888. So basically, you
have the perpetuation of this perspective which
comes to the fore with Ronald Reagan, who was a brilliant
president with a vision and a command of the
language and a great sense of rhetorical skill. But who imposes the most severe
tax cuts up till that time that you’d ever seen. American taxes on the
rich in 1954 were 91%. Under Reagan, they
went down to under 37%. And you have a
redistribution of income, but it’s not going
anyways downward. It’s going pretty much upward. Now Reagan is basically
carrying forward the idea of not
letting a lot of change happen in terms of
social legislation. Doesn’t really do anything with
the issues such as health care, and those issues
contained to persist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *