When we think of racists we universally think of old white men, particularly old white men born in that barbaric time in America before downloading rap music over the internet purified all our hearts. And since every American president, with only two barely mentionable exceptions, were old white men who never once used Twitter or Tumblr, we generally tend to assume all of them were reprehensible racists. Even the presidents who freed the slaves and bullied congress into passing landmark Civil Rights legislation, we routinely remind ourselves, were still men mediocred by prejudice, racial slurs, and publicly expressed doubts over the spiritual equality of non-whites with whites.
Frequently this stereotype is true. One of the first articles that anyone ever read on the U4E was one about the long, storied history of open racism amongst American Presidents. But as we meander through a month that is both dedicated to Black History and host to President’s Day, it is important to remember that our leaders our like ourselves, human beings full of complexity. Sometimes, when you examine them closely, they surprise and confound your one-dimensional stereotypes of their character. Sometimes they turn out to be less racist than you would expect.