Zenith of Affirmative Action
“Bring Us Together” was Richard Nixon's campaign slogan, and after his inauguration in January 1969 most Americans desired just that: a time of national healing and unity.
But that was not to be. Urban riots, campus demonstrations, the Vietnam war, and what Time called the counterculture “youthquake” had ended political and social consensus and divided the nation. On one side was a vocal minority who opposed the president and the establishment, the sixties culture; on the other were those who supported it and who Nixon eventually labeled the “great silent majority.” By June 1970, a month after the Kent State tragedy, a government commission wrote that division in the nation was “as deep as any since the Civil War.”
The division was exemplified in two powerful social currents during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s—empowerment and liberation. Since the mid-1960s many young blacks had become tired of asking whites for their rights, listening to liberals talk about gradual change, and they became more militant, shouting for “Black Power.” The war was another factor, for many young black men could not understand why they were drafted to fight 12,000 miles away in Vietnam when they were beaten by white cops in the South. Activist Stokely Carmichael blasted selective service as nothing more than “white people sending black people to make war on yellow people to defend the land they stole from red people.” Such ideas were gaining currency within the black community as Nixon took office in 1969. On the assembly line, African Americans formed organizations such as DRUM, Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, and shut down a Chrysler plant. On campuses that year, younger brothers and sisters began making demands for black