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Black And White: A Visual Interpretation Of Racism During The Vietnam War

773 words - 4 pages

In Michael Nelson’s The Presidency, a photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson giving members of the 101st Airborne their service medals for fighting in the Vietnam War is used to describe how he served his term as president (see Appendix 1 for photograph). The photograph was taken during July in 1966 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and it is a black and white picture showing President Lyndon B. Johnson moving down a line of soldiers, stopping at each one to shake their hands while they were awarded their medals. Behind the soldiers, many American flags are hoisted by another row of soldiers. The photograph effectively describes Johnson’s presidential term because Johnson actively supported sending hundreds of thousands of troops to aid the South Vietnamese Army against North Vietnam, and he made many military decisions about actions while acting as commander-in-chief of the United States Army. Shaking soldiers’ hands after fighting symbolized Johnson’s backing of Vietnam because he shows his appreciation for their war efforts, but I believe the photograph has a deeper meaning. Showing racial prejudices still remained in the United States after segregation officially ended 2 years prior, in 1964, is an alternate meaning for the photograph.
One way the continuation of racial prejudices after segregation legally ended shows in the photograph because the black soldiers are separated from other soldiers. Within the photograph, the line of soldiers who are shaking hands with Lyndon B. Johnson are distinctly divided into two sides, the white and the black soldiers. The white soldiers were the first to shake hands with the president and then black soldiers followed. The order in which the soldiers’ hands were shaken demonstrates a belief that white soldiers are more important and deserve to shake the hand of the president before the less important black soldiers. Similarly, the idea that white people are more superior to black people was common during segregation when discriminatory acts forced black people to sit at the back of buses so the white people didn’t have to be behind black people. The continuation of racial prejudice towards black people by white people is apparent because the belief that white people are superior to black people still exists.
Another way racial prejudices continued after segregation showed in the photograph...

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