It's often asked why earlier generations did not 'do something' to forestall the crisis in which we now find ourselves. We can look back at certain crucial events and ask why, say, in 1965, did no one organize opposition to the notorious Hart-Celler Immigration Act of that year? Or, why, some ask, didn't people act some years earlier when they saw the government overstepping its bounds and enforcing 'integration' of our schools with the threat of force?
It's always easier to see with the benefit of hindsight that certain events were turning points, watershed moments, and that had these things not happened as they did, certain later events might have been avoided or at least ameliorated somewhat. But at the time, it seems that most people did not realize the historic nature of the things that were happening. In the case of the 1965 Immigration Act, the measure was little-publicized. It was not discussed, as best I can remember, on any of the 'talking heads' shows on TV. Of course, in those days, there were no cable news channels with 24-hour programming. There were only the 'alphabet networks' CBS, NBC, and ABC, and the political panel shows, then as now, were on Sundays. I used to watch those programs along with my Dad when I was growing up and I don't remember any discussion of this radical change in our immigration policies. Few ordinary Americans had any inkling of what was going to be unleashed on us in the name of a 'fairer' immigration policy. Few could imagine how drastically the new policies, favoring people from what were then termed the 'underdeveloped nations', would alter our country in the most basic ways.
As for the other far-reaching changes that were taking place in those momentous years of the mid-to-late 60s, most people then could not have imagined the outcome of all the Civil Rights concessions that were being demanded and granted.
From what I saw, heard, read, and observed back then, I think that the media did a very good job of presenting one side of the story: poor black people (who were then called Negroes) being unfairly deprived of their rights, not allowed equal access to places of business, schools, clubs, and so on. Most Americans in the North at least seemed to agree that this was unacceptable and not in accordance with American principles of equality, so they were content to see segregation abolished and concessions made to blacks. In the South, it was not quite so readily accepted. After all, the North had long had integration of schools and businesses, and many in the North felt that the Civil Rights measures were directed mainly at those bad old unreconstructed Southerners who had never repented after the War Between the States, and so they, the Southerners, richly deserved to be slapped down and made to conform.
To be fair, there were many people, nevertheless, in the North who held racially realistic attitudes, and who were not in favor of complete integration with blacks. Although officially the North was already integrated, there were in most places unspoken agreements about racial relations, and the races for the most part kept their distance from each other in the North as well, at least in those areas where I lived in my late teens.
I believe the consensus in the North was that it was reasonable to open things up a little more, and to stop any overt ''discrimination" against blacks or other races regarding housing, employment, and education.
The media then as now avoided any discussion of how or why there was separation of the races. It was assumed to be because of malice on the part of Whites. No consideration was given as to the motivations for it, the very real reasons why it was established and why it continued.
Still, most people then, except for the most liberal, took it for granted that there were differences among the races. There was an accepted consensus that each group preferred its own, and that was as it should be.
In the South, there was less willingness to make the government-mandated changes. I remember that back in the 50s, the older generations warned that not only was it wrong to force people to associate with others for whatever reason, but that integration with blacks would mean that the races would eventually mix socially, with assimilation on the part of whites toward black norms, rather than the other way around. And they saw that as an undesirable state of affairs.
And those warnings have been proven to be correct, many times over. Now we see many White young people emulating blacks in their speech, clothing, musical preferences, lifestyle, and behavior. Many young Whites listen exclusively to black styles of music, and believe that blacks are in most ways superior to their own people. Intermarriage is increasing, though still statistically uncommon.
This is what our parents and grandparents predicted, and they were called 'prejudiced' for their trouble.
At the time, I myself accepted the liberal viewpoint, being exposed to the liberal trends of the day as all young people were. I supposed that my elders were old fogies who didn't know what they were talking about. It took me many years to realize how correct they were.
Most Americans who were somewhat moderate on racial issues assumed that making concessions to blacks would remove their resentments and their sense of grievance. Most people, except for the 'realists', believed that the Civil Rights revolution would remove the causes of racial friction, and that once having been appeased and granted 'equality', blacks would settle into a new way of life, as full-fledged Americans, and make good use of the new opportunities that were available in the form of education and employment and social parity.
Of course we can now look back and see that this did not happen; every demand met resulted in a new demand, or several new demands. No matter how many concessions and confessions of guilt were offered up, more concessions were needed. The more 'freedom' and 'equality' was available, the angrier blacks seemed to become, as it appeared that success did not fall into their laps as they thought it should. Or maybe they didn't really have expectations that were disappointed; they merely learned that anger and protests were a profitable way to wring more concessions and special treatment. It seemed to become a clash of wills, or an exercise of power on the part of aggrieved minority groups.
'Affirmative action' was thought by many Whites to be a temporary measure to bring blacks up to some kind of parity with Whites in employment; few Whites imagined that it would be considered a permanent entitlement.
Would Whites have reacted differently to the original Civil Rights demands had they anticipated how much they would be weakened by the new regime of 'political correctness'? Maybe. It's pure speculation to try to imagine how things might have played out differently.
The majority Whites in the late 60s and early 70s were assailed on every side with the youth rebellion, the Vietnam war protest movement, the new demands of women for 'liberation' from their traditional roles, the 'sexual revolution' and the 'New Morality', and then of course racial disturbances and riots in many places. The media then made a sharp turn to the left, as did Hollywood, and I think many White Americans lost their bearings in all these upheavals, and simply wanted all the strife to end.
I think the left attacked traditional America from all sides knowing that it would keep people off balance and on the defensive. Eventually, many people seemed to cave in, and decided to go with the flow. Fewer and fewer voices of dissent from the new liberal norms were heard. Maybe that was because by then, the media was only giving us one side of the story.
As to the subject of mass immigration, some people began to notice that by the 70s and 80s, suddenly there were a great many more exotic Third World people in our midst, and enclaves growing up here and there. Still most of the immigration was limited to the big cities, where multiracial communities were nothing new. Heartland America was not yet affected by the mass immigration that had begun.
Illegal Mexican immigration began to grow, and Ronald Reagan, that supposed arch-conservative, responded with the amnesty of 1986, which more or less sealed our fate and led to the presence of tens of millions of Latinos in our country. I wonder if Reagan could have anticipated that his state of California would be so quickly swallowed up by Latino immigration? I wonder if he would 'celebrate' the transformation, or if he would mourn the loss? I fear he would see nothing wrong with it, Hispanophile that he was.
When the country's conservative president amnestied large numbers of illegal aliens, it seemed the die was cast.
We got where we are today by degrees; it's true that at certain points we can see that the agenda advanced by leaps and bounds, and yet it was gradual enough over the years that most people's alarm bells failed to go off. The hackneyed analogy of the frog in boiling water is appropriate. At times, the water was barely simmering, though now it seems to be coming to a full boil very quickly.
Can we condemn earlier generations for falling asleep on the job, for failing to be vigilant enough to see the precipice ahead? I don't think so. There were voices in the wildnerness who were effectively marginalized or silenced, and the majority in every generation wishes only to take the path of least resistance, and to be left alone to pursue their private lives. Besides, it's useless to point the finger of blame at other generations or eras; hindsight is always 20/20, and many in our generation are as oblivious, or even more so, than our parents and grandparents were. We shouldn't waste time on the blame game, but take stock of where we are, and keep working to find solutions.