The other day, I came across a video on YouTube (see below for the main point, or click on the title for a fuller version of the TV program) claiming that Bobby Kennedy had made an accurate prophesy about how long it would be before an African American became President.
The presenter was, perhaps, a little over eager in trying to make it sound as though Kennedy was right on the button when he said that “a Negro could be President in 40 years”, as the date on the Washington Post story is actually 1961, which was 48 years before 20th January 2009 when Mr Obama actually becomes President.
Extraordinary though Kennedy’s words must have sounded at the time, he has to be admired both for his optimism in a period of such turbulence in the struggle for civil rights and for the near-accuracy of his prediction.
Younger readers should not, by the way, read anything sinister into Kennedy's use of the word ‘Negro’, because it was also used during the same era and without any qualms by Martin Luther King Jr. and more or less everyone else.
‘African American’ may be the ‘politically correct’ description at the moment, but it is only the latest in a series of attempts to eliminate the word ‘Negro’ from everyday usage in the American version of the English language, earlier attempts at which include ‘black’ and ‘persons of colour’.