Airbrushing ci vil rights history
The Washington Post
Americans across the political spectrum look back on the civil rights movement “with historical reverence,” said Elahe Izadi. Schoolchildren of all races memorize Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech; conservatives invoke the movement “as a model for their own activism,” while civil rights activists “are viewed as national heroes.” But in their day, King and his fellow activists were viewed by most white Americans as dangerous troublemakers. When Southern mobs attacked Freedom Riders who were protesting bus segregation in 1961, a Gallup poll showed 61 percent of Americans disapproved of the protesters. In a 1966 Harris survey, 85 percent of whites said mass demonstrations and sit-ins “would hurt the advancement of civil rights.” Why? Most whites reflexively side with authority and the status quo over minorities who demand equal treatment. For that same reason, fewer than one-third of white Americans approve of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has protested police shootings and mistreatment of black civilians. Many whites flatly deny that police discriminate against blacks, and portray the protesters as dangerous thugs. When Americans look back at the BLM movement a half-century from now, will they paint a rosier picture?