My personal assessment is that Lyndon Johnson genuinely did care about the rights of black people. Johnson always saw himself as a persecuted victim and this led him to sympathize with black people as his fellow victims. He genuinely wanted to be their champion.
Yes, Johnson said and did things that would be racist by modern standards. Johnson was a master politician and he knew how to play to his audience. And he was certainly a man capable of deceit.
So I figure if you want to judge Johnson’s true character you have to look at the things he did when he gained no advantage from doing them. And pushing for civil rights was one of those things. Johnson knew that supporting civil rights would break up the power base of the Democratic party. He knew the Republicans would move in and appeal to southern white voters and the Democrats would lost ten white votes for every black vote it gained. But Johnson did it anyway.
By some definitons, all white people are racist. By others, all white people who came of age before the Civil Rights movement meet at least some metric of being racist. I’m afraid the word has been rendered useless as a meaningful descriptor.
How many presidents were/are white supremicists? How many modern (post-WWII)? How many presidents within a desired timeline have signed legislation that specifically disenfranchised or discriminated against non-whites? Why is the “There’s no such thing as race” contingent being so quiet?
We need a different, more carefully-constructed question to reach whatever answer the OP is seeking.
Don’t exclude Franklin Roosevelt. FDR interned Japanese-Americans by executive order, turned away a shipload of Jewish refugees (claiming that they could threaten national security), and continued the Hoover administration’s massive deportation of between 500,000 - 2,000,000 Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans.
On the other hand, he did order the desegregation of the federal civilian workforce (albeit not the military).
In his early years, before entering politics, Johnson was a school teacher who taught very poor Mexican kids. This is often described as a formative period in his life, and he saw the fate of these children as something he wanted to help.
I believe he had a soft spot for oppressed minorities, but he was also a caustic (and narcissistic) son of a bitch, so he would throw out an epithet, like calling civil rights legislation “the nigger bill” when cajoling a southern congressman to support it. LBJ was immersed in racism, being a southerner, but his actions contradict the conclusion that he was a virulent racist.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 was the first civil rights law since reconstruction. LBJ was democratic Senate Majority Leader at the time. This is akin to Mitch McConnell’s role now - how far do you think a bill gets if McConnell doesn’t want it to get through the Senate?
Which was only necessary because Woodrow Wilson had ordered the federal civilian workforce segregated. They had been desegregated since Reconstruction.
See, there are racist presidents, and then there are Racist Presidents.
I think a lot of this Johnson-hate is coming from the fact that there was recently a movie that depicted him in a negative light, as a obstacle to the Civil Rights movement rather than an enabler of it. From what I understand, that’s bullshit.
Prior to this, I never heard anyone bash Johnson for anything other than prolonging the war in Vietnam. Other than that, he seems to be admired and respected.
The man was an abrasive ass. That doesn’t mean there weren’t aspects of him that could be admired or respected, but by today’s standards he was definitely a racist. This doesn’t mean he didn’t do a lot, or believe in civil rights, because he certainly did.
I think a lot of folks in this thread are confusing or confused by people having personal racist beliefs or notions, by today’s standards, and them doing things or believing in things that assisted in civil rights or better attitudes or tangible things for minorities. Just because someone was for civil rights in the past doesn’t preclude them being a racist by today’s standards. Not all racists wanted to keep minorities ground down, and what someone might have done politically or broadly didn’t have anything to do with how they felt or interacted personally. Johnson is a perfect example of this…the man was a bigot, a sexist and just an abrasive asshole, but he was also a key player in getting civil rights on the front burner of US politics and was instrumental in pounding it through…often literally…hard headed congressional opposition.
I’ve known he was an abrasive ass; no argument there. Before this thread I hadn’t heard that he was a racist. He could well have been, but I’m still wondering what those of you who are claiming that he was a racist are basing this claim on (and hoping it’s not just the movie that Jacquernagy mentioned).
No, I didn’t even see whatever movie Jac is talking about. You can Google it yourself, but there are a ton of instances of Johnson saying or doing things that, today, would be considered very racist. Not surprising, since he was a man of his time. I did a quick Google, and found this MSNBC article:
This seems to be missing the point of “historical standards”. It’s not about what anyone at the time - whether white or black - thought of him. It’s about how his views compared to those of other people at the time.
From what I’ve read on the subject, it was definitely paternalistic, but not racist in that it wasn’t “go back to where you came from!” but a misguided intent to put things back right. Little details such as “dude, they don’t know which part they’re from, they don’t know anybody there and they don’t speak the language” were being overlooked. Little details such as “the people there have no reason to want these people”, as well. It’s the same mindset which had led to the creation of Liberia.