What Happened to the Racists from the Civil Rights Era?

Racists in the civil rights era can transform, for better or worse, in another one. I suspect that several things have happened to them, but that the general trend, as with the long arc of American history, is one of progress for the better, where the good continues to win despite setbacks.

Racists will be Racists

The racists in the Civil Rights era were prominent opponents of the movement, obviously. But they seem to have disappeared from the public consciousness. And I don’t know why exactly. So, I’m taking the space here, if you’ll indulge, to explore the idea of this. To research this topic in full, I’d need to write a book: “In Search of the Deplorables.”

Nonetheless, there is the notion about the Civil Rights Movement. That idea is some good people were fighting for equality. Some bad people were fighting for inequality. The good people triumphed to some degree. Others lost and slithered away. But what happened to them? Where did the individuals going for superiority based on the hypothetical concept of race go?

It is an interesting question. It raises the spectre of racists moving to other areas of the country and using different methodologies. Or were they immediately defeated, so they were dispersed as they disbanded? I don’t see racists simply giving up their ideologies, prejudices, and pseudo-sciences. Some, sure, as ‘the light’ of modernity and critical thinking came to them, even basic equal, one-to-one interaction with people of different ethnic backgrounds. But all of them? I highly doubt it. 

But Really, Where Did They Go?

So, I’m back to the original thought. What happened to the racists? One thought is that they went into the ether, or the underground. Some argue that a few crept into the White House. Another is they found other means by which to express their distasteful views. They could also have formed underground groups to band together again and to re-brand, “The culture won’t accept this. But they may accept this.” 

Then again, there are those who took the ideology, moved forward with it, and who we see mocked and ridiculed – sometimes punched – in broad daylight. In the social media era, this is something that gets spread, as we all know, far and wide to make ‘memes’, video clips, and material for YouTube commentators and even mainstream media personalities. 

There is research into unconscious biases from Professors Anthony Greenwood and Mahzarin Banaji with the Implicit Association Test or IAT. But this answers another question, somewhat, about the ways we all inhabit a social context rather than looking at individuals with reprehensible views about ethnic supremacy often tied to a religious ideology. Someone with the intent to deny another human being fundamental human rights based on those views. 

My suspicion overall is that those who are on the losing side of history and eventually are defeated; at the time of the defeat, they do disband.  Many lose hope. Some go underground. Others rebrand, still others have a change of heart. They get fewer in percent of the population and less firm in their faith. But some simply never change, even indoctrinating their children. So, I suspect, though cannot prove definitively, that they’re extant, still around in other words but with less power and fervour as those who used to partake of lynchings and Jim Crow. But the fact that the majority perspective in culture has shifted so much – the tide of history – points to their disempowerment in culture even if around. 

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Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen works for science and human rights, specifically women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Scott Douglas Jacobsen works for science and human rights, specifically women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.