Re: The Civil Rights Movement and Vietnam

Richard C. Crepeau (
Mon, 22 Apr 1996 23:48:56 -0400

I would like to add one more small observation on this current topic. It
has always seemed to me that the two movements were intricately related,
but that Vietnam took centerstage for white college students only after
they realized that as the Black Power segment of the Civil Rights
Movement emergered they would have a much different role in the Civil Rights
movement. The new role would in fact be more demanding, and much too
difficult for many, who were not ready to tackle the transformation of
the racism of their white friends and relatives or the white
institutions in which they functioned daily. It was in many ways much
easier to take on Washington over Vietnam and much less risky in a
personal sense.

I remember a young black priest in Detroit who said in the mid-Sixties
that he was not counting on the young white college students who seemed
so committed and radical because in a few months or years they would cut
their hair, shave, put on a suit and move into middle management in
their father's businesses. This is one reason he was more interested in
black power than coalition politics. He was of course correct, but what
he didn't yet know was that many of these white students would stop in the
anti-war movement on their way to middle class respectability.

Dick Crepeau