Robert Kennedy’s Legacy

TITLE: Déjà vu: Divisive Politics, Racial Divide

 

The political climate in 2018 was, perhaps, one of the worst in American history.

The parties were fiercely divided to the point that actual issues barely mattered. It was red or blue, instead of right or wrong.

Race, as is often the case, also reared its ugly head, with a candidate running in Florida against a black opponent urged supporters not to “monkey up” this election.

The final U.S. Senate race was decided in Mississippi this week as the winning candidate was also running against a black opponent and mentioned her support for “public hangings.” Mississippi has a brutal history of lynching buried not too far back in its past.

Photos of the candidate surrounded by Confederate symbols also appeared.

One party even made efforts in different states to restrict voting rights of minority citizens – blacks in Georgia and Native Americans in North Dakota.

Add in an unpopular president and the 2018 election harkens back to another time – 50 years ago.

The U.S. was struggling with the Vietnam War in 1968 and President Lyndon Johnson was so maligned that he eventually decided not to seek re-election.

The Civil Rights Movement was in full force and racial strife dominated the country. Race riots gripped the nation in April, following the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.

A man emerged then who seemed destined to heal America’s raw wounds.

Robert Francis Kennedy, born Nov. 20, 1935, had been a controversial figure. He began his public career working for disgraced Sen. Joe McCarthy and became U.S. Attorney General in his brother’s administration with scant experience.

In 1964 Kennedy was elected a senator from New York, despite “carpetbagger” claims.

But it was in 1968 when RFK emerged to stand on his own laurels, determined to make America a better place.

Kennedy highlighted the unequal division of wealth in the country and the extreme poverty that many citizens of the richest country in the world found themselves in.

He toured black neighborhoods to point out the dismal conditions and toured Indian reservations – including the Navajo Nation – to bring attention to their impoverished state.

His own aides warned that he was wasting his time visiting these communities because they were unlikely to turn out at the polls.

But Kennedy went because it was right, not for mere political optics.

His speech in Window Rock was mostly ad-libbed and focused on three of his passions: Indians, children and education.

He asked, “Is it not barbaric to take children as young as five and send them a thousand miles from their families to boarding school?”

After winning the California primary it looked like nothing could stop Bobby Kennedy.

Nothing except an assassin …

U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy spoke his brother’s eulogy: “My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.”

Robert F. Kennedy, a man born to wealth became a champion of the poor, he was born to privilege and power and became a voice for those without.

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