"We're heading into nut country today," President John F. Kennedy said to Jackie on the morning of November 22, 1963 -- 50 years ago today.
Nut country was Dallas, Texas. The city had gained a reputation as "nut country" because of incidents like:
In the years and months before Kennedy was assassinated, Lyndon B. Johnson; his wife, Lady Bird; and Adlai E. Stevenson, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, were jostled and spat upon in Dallas by angry mobs. In sermons, rallies, newspapers and radio broadcasts, the city's richest oil baron, a Republican congressman, a Baptist pastor and others, including the local John Birch Society, filled Dallas with an angry McCarthyesque paranoia.
The immediate reaction of many in Dallas to the news that Kennedy had been shot was not only shock but also a sickening sense of recognition. Moments after hearing about the shooting, the wife of the Methodist bishop told Tom J. Simmons, an editor at The Dallas Morning News, "You might have known it would be Dallas."
Indeed, the very day of his assassination, the tin-foil hat club known as the John Birch Society a/k/a the "Birchers" (mentioned above) had taken out a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News essentially calling JFK a communist (but, hey, to the Birchers, who wasn't? Short history lesson/analogy: it might be useful to think of the Tea Party as today's iteration of the John Birch Society).
Well, the immediate reaction of the rest of the nation was to blame Dallas, and anti-Dallas sentiment was strong throughout the nation for years afterward. But time has healed some of the wounds. The Dallas Cowboys became "America's Team" in the 1970s and Dallas and J.R. Ewing came to define Texas for much of the rest of the country in 1980s. And, no doubt, Dallas is not the city it was in 1963: "In 1963, Dallas was the 14th-largest city in the country, with a majority-white population of nearly 700,000, a provincial place whose mostly white, mostly male establishment set the agenda. In 2013, Dallas is the nation's ninth-largest city, with a majority-minority population of 1.2 million."
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What is more, Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins is doing something that most Southern DAs don't do: working to make sure no one is wrongfully convicted and helping free those who have been wrongfully convicted. Watkins has been, rightfully, called a "hero."
So has Dallas been fully rehabilitated? Not yet. Dallas is now majority-minority because of "white flight." The suburbs surrounding Dallas and Fort Worth are deep red and are Tea Party country nonpareil. Remember, just a few months ago, when a Dallas Tea Party Activist said:
"I'm going to be real honest with you," Emanuelson said. "The Republican Party doesn't want black people to vote if they are going to vote 9-to-1 for Democrats."
As I've noted before, now that blatant racism is taboo in most all areas of society, a sense of "racial resentment," especially in the Old Confederate states, pervades in certain sectors. And the Dallas metropolitan area is no exception. Emmanuelson's comments are representative of what we know about Tea Party conservatives: they have high levels of racial resentment. To echo the words of one commentator: "What's so changed about that?"