Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964…. the most significant piece of civil rights legislation in our history. No President in the 20th century more eloquently expressed the fight for civil rights as Johnson did in 1965,
“There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans—not as Democrats or Republicans—we are met here as Americans to solve that problem.”
Johnson also signed the Voting Rights Act… in 1965. Johnson’s administration created the Department of Housing and Urban Development to oversee equality in public housing and all his Great Society programs were color blind. He appointed Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court in 1967. Johnson acted where his predecessors had only given lip service to the issue of civil rights. Yet, his legacy is in doubt today, largely due to his off-color language and perceived personal prejudice.
Conservatives cite Johnson’s racial feelings… as proof that Democrats have never cared about minorities; that the GOP remains the party of Lincoln, the true civil rights champion. Johnson’s civil rights record is just another conspiracy to dupe the ignorant masses into voting Democratic. Reconciling personal feelings with our public actions has never been an easy task. The 24 hour news cycle is driven by a culture dependent on sound bytes as the only acceptable measure of public figures. Perhaps it’s time we start judging a person’s actions rather than snippets of their personal conversations…?