The 1960s were nothing if not eventful. There were assassinations, murders, the Viet Nam War, protest marches, sit-ins, freedom rides, campus takeovers, church bombings, boycotts, riots, teargas, campus shootings, cross burnings, draft card burnings, bra burnings, and cities burning. There was a cause for every young idealist who was a solution looking for a problem. The 60s were heady days for young people just coming of age and cutting their political teeth. Those young and often ill-informed idealists of the 60s have since become grouchy old white liberals, reenergized by the election of America’s first black president—something that surprised them even more than it did Barack Obama’s most ardent opponents.
Now, 40 plus years later, America has evolved into a much different and better place, but many of the young idealists of the 60s—those who participated in sit-ins, freedom rides, and campus demonstrations—have not changed. They are still stuck in the 60s. Listen to their rhetoric and you will quickly realize that many of today’s 50 plus white liberals still long for those turbulent days when Governor George Wallace stood in the door of the University of Alabama and when Birmingham’s Public Safety Commissioner, Bull Connor, turned water cannons and police dogs on black demonstrators.
One of the reasons these crusty old white liberals are so nostalgic for the 60s is that they yearn for the days when they still had the moral high ground—when they could self-righteously blame every social problem on racism and not be too far wrong. Unfortunately for them and America, what today’s white liberals fail to acknowledge is that this is 2012 not 1968. Black Americans can vote, eat in any restaurant, drink out of any water foundation, hold any job, attend any school, win elections in the deepest of the deep-South states, ride any bus or even own the bus company, and become President of the United States. One would think that white liberals who marched alongside Dr. King in the 60s would rejoice in the progress America has made, but this is not the case. One can only wonder from their rhetoric if they would not really be happier if racial segregation was still the order of the day.
Even that old nemesis of civil rights advocates, George Wallace, atoned for his sins and won a final term as governor of Alabama with the support of black voters. The good old bad days longed for by liberal alumni of the 60s are over, the country has progressed, and society’s problems can no longer be automatically attributed to discrimination. Of course, racism still exists in America, just as it exists everywhere. But, if they ever did, whites hold no monopoly on the concept, as the emergence of the New Black Panther Party has recently shown. Unfortunately, you would not know this from listening to 50-plus white liberals. In fact, although it is 2012 and there is a black American in the White House—not serving meals but serving in the Oval Office—white liberals use the term “racism” even more now than they did in the 1960s.
Listen to today’s white liberals and you will think that every conservative—black or white, male or female—wears a hood, burns crosses, and forces blacks to sit in the back of the bus. Oppose a policy proposed by President Obama and you are no better than Bull Connor or the contemptible villain who blew up a church in Alabama murdering four little black girls. Question the President’s judgment and you are the reincarnation of Governor Ross Barnett refusing to allow James Meredith to enroll at the University of Mississippi.
Perhaps no individual personifies the old white liberal stuck in the 60s more than Chris Matthews. In a recent debate with Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican Party and a man who happens to be black, Matthews referred to the GOP as the “grand wizard crowd” (that is grand wizard as in head of the Ku Klux Klan). He also likes to cast judgment on blacks who, in his eyes, are not black enough. Of course, by not being black enough Matthews and his fellow 60s alumni mean that Steele and other conservative blacks refuse to accept the stereotypical and subservient roles imposed on them by the left. The irony of a white liberal like Matthews, a man who has never been black one day in his life, lecturing a black man like Steele for not being black enough is simply too much to grasp. Somebody needs to tell Chris Matthews and other old white liberals like him that the good old bad days of the 60s are over. On second thought, never mind. I think I just did that.