This quote from Woodrow Wilson’s 1901 work, A History of the American People tells everything that needs to be known about his feelings on the KKK. In Wilson’s mind, the Klan were the true victims of Reconstruction. They were only doing what was best for them, and apparently, Wilson thinks that they should not be faulted for it.
This quote was stated by Wilson to the protestors of segregated battalions. It is a perfect example of Wilson advocating the modern-day liberal theory of government knowing what is best. The military would not be desegregated until 1948, and one can certainly surmise that this was partly due to these thoughts laid out by Wilson. This same line of thinking could be used to justify Southern Jim Crow Laws, which were brought to the Executive Branch by Wilson.
Nothing reflects Wilson’s smugness and stubbornness on race relations as much as this quote given to The New York Times in 1914. In his mind, if black Americans had a problem with the way he dealt with race relations, it was their problem, not his. Displaying such little empathy for the black Americans who were suffering during his tenure as President, Wilson exhibits his true feelings on the matter.
It is pretty dark and twisted to attempt to derive any positive out of slavery, but Wilson was able to do it in this out-of-touch comment. Much consistent with his other views regarding the Civil War and Reconstruction, Wilson saw slavery perhaps as a minor inconvenience, considering the “rewards” that they were given for their forced labor.
As can be seen, Wilson’s central issues with the post-bellum South did not stem from any ideology, but it rather stemmed from who was granted rights. In Wilson’s estimation, black Americans did not have any business being placed on the same footing as white Americans.
More elaboration upon Wilson’s view of the “compassion” of segregation is his view that it was necessary to do so, as black Americans could never compete with whites on their own merit. Striking about this quote is that it eerily resembles the arguments posited by modern liberals in favor of affirmative action programs.
Wilson’s racism started long before his time as President of the US, and can be stemmed back to his time as President of Princeton. During his time at the university, he actively discouraged black Americans from applying, in an attempt to keep Princeton “pure” and to prevent any conflicts among students.
Wilson’s racist tendencies were not directed exclusively to black Americans. They also reached those who had come to the US in search of their own American dream. According to Wilson, all should have a skeptical and distrustful eye toward those who are not originally from the United States, in clear contradiction with the “melting pot” theory that we in the US attempt to exhibit.
Placing on display both racism and xenophobia during his 1912 presidential campaign, Wilson spoke nearly unspeakable ignorance. Wilson explains that basically, the far-superior whites have had to deal with enough racial annoyances through black Americans and shouldn’t have to “put up” with other inferiors like Asians.
In yet another damning quote from A History of the American People, Wilson fully elaborates upon his anti-immigrant sentiment. As was previously stated, it appears that no racial or ethnic groups were spared from Wilson’s ignorance and racism.