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I think that it should be noted that the Progressives did not set out to construct a platform of racist thought. Their commitment to social justice and transformation of the political and social landscape would preclude such an idea. Yet, I think that the Progressives were not as enlightened about racial equality as they could have been. Their misunderstanding in the issue of race helped to enhance the prejudice in America already present.
The Progressives focused on economic justice and reforming a political system that favored those who were in the position of power. The Progressives believed that these issues solely resided in reforming the political system and enhancing the economic rights of the disenfranchised. They did not fully grasp that issues such as racial discrimination were and are embedded within economic injustice. Progressives at the highest of levels in American society demonstrated a desire to bring about social justice, but failed to understand racial injustice as part of this. President Wilson was one such individual. His attitude towards people of color was not one in which there was deliberate intent to oppress others. Rather, it showed an inability to understand the nuances of racial identity and its role in American society at the turn of the century. It was attitudes like these that helped to perpetuate racism in American society. The Progressives, like Wilson, did not understand how the issue of social justice took on many forms, in different realms, with unique and enlightened approaches needed. For the Progressives, the inability to understand the issue of race represented an avenue that helped to enhance racism in American society.
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