Blog post for 9/4

President Kennedy’s Civil Rights address was written in response to the integration of the University of Alabama, in which heavy military guard was needed to allow African American students onto Alabama’s campus. His response, in conjunction with the speech, was a to propose a bill that would abolish discrimination at every level of society. This bill was passed as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In President Kennedy’s Civil Rights address, he states that “law alone cannot make men see right.” Nina Simone performed “Mississippi Goddam” at Carnegie Hall in 1964 in front of a predominantly white audience. When the concert album was released, “Mississippi Goddam” became one of the most cited songs of protest in the Civil Rights movement. It was also banned in most Southern states, reportedly because “Goddam”  appeared in the title. Some of the lyrics are still enigmatic. For instance, the lines “This is a show tune/ But the show hasn’t been written for it, yet” suggest division between the sung song and the lyrics that comprise the song. So, you can choose one of the following questions to address in your blog post:

1) What does President Kennedy imply in the statement that “law alone cannot make men see right”?

2) What do you think Nina Simone is trying to say in the above highlighted lyrics?

16 comments on “Blog post for 9/4

  1. danmann7 says:

    ¬Kennedy means that while law serve as a motivation against discrimination, men have to follow the law for it to work. When Kennedy says “Law alone cannot make men right” he implies that this new Civil Rights Act will not instantaneously give equal rights to the blacks or make all men treat blacks equally. The people of the nation have to consciously change their own racist tendencies in order to stop the segregation, discrimination and prejudice that were prevalent in the time of Kennedy’s presidency. While blacks were finally able to attend universities, the discrimination was still extremely strong, as shown by the military escort that was needed just to get the student to his university. The nation was going through a huge transitional period between complete segregation and complete equality, and most of the people had a tough time getting used to these changes. Kennedy wanted to raise awareness about the issue of segregation and get the people to support civil rights so that the law would actually be followed.

  2. Robbie says:

    Kennedy knew that a new law being set in place does not make up for years of racism that took place. People will not simply change on the spot just because they are told to do so as they hold very strongly to their beliefs. Laws are broken everyday which clearly proves Kennedy’s point. It is up to every individual to make their own decisions which do not always match up with rules that society has placed. However, this was still a very good start. Someone somewhere had to make the first move and that is exactly what Kennedy did. Just because not everyone will follow the law does not mean that it will not have an impact.

  3. Z says:

    Similar to the police action, the laws, imposed by Congress are repressive and passive. Obviously, the Civil Rights Movement cannot be achieved if the whites ignore the laws and continuously segregate the blacks from American society. This severe tendency will lead to chaotic society. Consequently, being denied by opportunities to eat in the proper restaurant, go to public school, get the decent jobs, the blacks will definitely start a revolution to realize a equal society. At that point, no matter how many and how strict the laws will be imposed, it is impossible to redeem the bleak finale. Therefore, not only the laws are required to make men right, but also people are required to implement the laws. Ultimately, as Kennedy said, the Civil Rights will be achieved.

  4. Naeem says:

    When saying that “law alone cannot make men see right” in his Civil Rights address, President Kennedy implies that although America can enforce a law against discrimination, it is the duty of all the citizens to genuinely ensure that they treat others the way they would wish to be treated. He implies that although the law adds consequence to those who practice discrimination, it does not posses the power to change citizens’ mindsets and, therefore, completely abolish discrimination. Kennedy later goes on to state that each household in America must make an effort to solve this issue. In order to abolish discrimination at every level of society, white citizens would have to treat the Negros with equality in their everyday lives. Depending solely on the law to ensure equality would not be sufficient.

  5. Rafe Mosetick says:

    I believe that John F. Kennedy is implying that just because something is a law doesn’t mean people will agree to abide by it. This is seen in the beginning of his speech, where he addresses the fact that they needed to have military escort for the two African American boys to ensure that they got in safely. This was an “unequivocal order of the Supreme Court,” which is a governmental order, yet people were still trying to disobey it by not letting the boys in. John F.Kennedy implies that he needs support from everyone to help desegregate America. If whites in the community continue to ban African Americans from using their facilities and other amenities, John F. Kennedy believes nothing will change. In short, people need to lead by example.

  6. yhua224 says:

    In his speech, Kennedy emphasized the importance of moral justice time and time again. His statement “Law alone cannot make men right” implies that the majority of the population should realize the unjustice of discrimination and segregation of black people, and that everyone is obliged to fight the prejudice in their daily life. Kennedy delivered his speech in the context of a time that black students had to be escorted on their way to the university. We can see that the discriminations were really universal. The police may guard the students for a day, but not for their life on campus. That implies that many problems cannot be solved solely by the law. By raising the public’s awareness of the issue, Kennedy not only urged the congress to pass the law smoothly, but also make sure people change their life long prejudice against African Americans.

  7. William Adams says:

    Without strong morals, citizens fall victim to the common prejudices of modern society. One must place himself/herself in another’s perspective to understand the reality of racial segregation. Even though African Americans are American citizens, at times African Americans are denied equality. In his address to the University of Alabama, John F. Kennedy shines light upon the idea that people are morally obligated to respect others in order to bring justice to the law of the land. In return, America will prosper by welcoming new thoughts and ideas to a once judgmental culture.

  8. Monica Poleway says:

    In John F. Kennedy’s Civil Rights Adress, he speaks about discrimination toward African American’s in the United States. When Kennedy states,” Law alone cannot make men right,” he implies discrimination will not end because of the newly passed Civil Rights Act. People in the country need to make changes and strive for peace between different races. Through African American’s were finally allowed to attend a higher education, the University of Alabama, they found themselves needing to be escorted by the military just to attend classes. This is a prime example of how Kennedy’s statement is accurate and how he supports equal rights for everyone. The Civil Rights Act allows African Americans and Whites to roam the country freely and equally, the way this country was set up with equal rights for all men. Kennedy implies that all people in the country make an effort to stop the cruel treatment of African Americans.

  9. Dalila Vazquez says:

    When President Kennedy says that “law alone cannot make men see right” he implies that it will take more than a legislation to make a real change. That change being the change in American society’s thinking, regarding the discrimination against black citizens. A law can force people to allow black citizens the same opportunities that themselves have, but their own prejudiced ideas are still there. Laws cannot cover every aspect, so people can still apply racism in sections that they are able to do so or even break the law. Because many of these people believe that their thinking is correct. To avoid this conflict, individual mindset has to be changed. President Kennedy declares that government can enact legislations but the citizens have to do their own part to analyze the situation in a more humane and empathetic way.

  10. Aamina Ahmad says:

    Throughout his Civil Rights Address, President Kennedy emphasizes the fact that racial inequality in the United States is not a “sectional issue” or “a legislative issue” but a “moral issue.” This is exactly what I think he means when he says that “law alone cannot make men see right.” The truth is that there are plenty of laws these days that many people do not follow – I do not know a single driver who consistently abides by the speed limit. If a person wants do something, the existence of a law preventing that behavior will not necessarily stop him or her from doing it. Instead it will only make the person more cautious when he or she does it. I think President Kennedy is well aware of this and knows that the only way for a real change to occur is for people to have a change of heart.

  11. Jen Chung says:

    “Mississippi Goddam” was written and sung in order to influence a change in view. Although protests against mistreatment of blacks had been going on for a long time, the world still refused to accept the complete equality of blacks and whites. Knowing that our country was not ready for such a contradictory song, Nina Simone sang “Mississippi Goddam” to voice out once again the need to put an end to the injustice. The highlighted lyrics above indicate that because of the tension across the country, the song may not be fully understood and accepted by the crowd. Simply, the world was not ready to accept the intensions of this song. However, Nina Simone adds the word “yet.” She knows that America is going through a major shift in perspective and she patiently waits and dreams of a time when race will not be a conflict in our country. Nina Simone would have been proud of the America she sees today.

  12. Melody Carter says:

    When Kennedy states, “law alone cannot make men see right,” he obviously knows that no matter the law, all people are going to have their own different views of what is “right.” Despite the American idea of “all men are created equal,” racism has always played a major role in society. Even though slavery is gone, black people still have to deal with social disputes and discrimination. Making this speech, Kennedy is fully aware that his personal opinion and voice are not going to change everyone else’s; however, he is taking a stand and trying to make a difference by simply putting the idea out there. Whether people listen or agree is up to them, not the law.

  13. Haoyue Ma says:

    When saying “law alone cannot make men see right”, President Kennedy implies that difficulties in getting rid of discrimination exist not only legislatively but also morally. Law alone does interdicts people’s acts, but does not demolishes their will. For instance, if a child is forbidden, and would be punished for eating ice-cream before dinner, unless the child obeys to the rule mentally, he will allow his will to take over and do so when his parents are not watching. The deeply rooted thoughts about discrimination should be eliminated gradually by moral improvements along with law restrictions. Therefore, “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue.” thus spoken president Kennedy, laws along with moral betterment is the efficient way to dilute, even erase discrimination in the society.

  14. chenxiyu says:

    Kennedy means that when he first create a new law for against discrimination it is not only let people knew it but need actually follow it. In fact, in the United States inequality is the huge contradiction during Kennedy’s presidency. But he had to face and solve it. On the hand, racist cannot be perfect abolished at that short period. That is what I think when Kennedy says that ”law alone cannot make men see right. ” We believe that there are a large many of laws people not willing to follow – If many laws are not fair or cogent, people definitely not follow it. Instead if people really know what we duty and necessarily. I think this time people truly understand and be perfectly happy.

  15. Lyons Li says:

    In President Kennedy’s address, the USA government sent army to Alabama to ensure the right of black student to enter the university. It is a helpless and an inefficient way to fight against racism. When JFK stated that “law alone cannot make men see right”, he implied that to defeat discrimination and antagonism, we should raise racism to a higher level of moral problem; only do the whites accept the blacks from deep in their heart, the country would be in a harmonious condition. Laws could not diminish the inequity in wages and education; some aspects are out of the control of the hard rule. Further more, in order to implement the Civil Rights Act of 1964, people should be noticed by themselves that black and white are all the same people; skin did not mean anything. JFK realized that a big revolution would take place in America soon to create a society that America had never experienced, in which black and white will live as brothers.

  16. Abby says:

    Laws do not make themselves. People write laws. Regardless of what the laws consist of, they have no significance unless those who wrote them and those who listen to them truly believe in them. Nothing is going to change simply by writing down words and shoving the document in peoples’ faces. In order for a more just system, there are certain people who must change their perspectives. Kennedy does not simply tell people to think differently, but specifically asks them to place themselves in the shoes of an African-American person. A law cannot transform the mind, but thinking consciously about daily activities, such as eating at a restaurant or staying at a hotel can make people more aware of the privileges that others do not have. Eventually, and hopefully, this awareness will transform into action for a more moral society. Skin color is what distinguishes people on the outside, but everyone is American and Kennedy encourages this common factor to unite people. Kind individuals will accept each other whether or not there is a law enforced.

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