Many are quoting this from an editorial by William F. Buckley Jr.:
“The central question that emerges…is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas where it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes–the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.”
–William F. Buckley, National Review, August 24, 1957
I do want to put on the record that he recanted:
Buckley said he had a few regrets, most notably his magazine’s opposition to civil rights legislation in the 1960s. “I think that the impact of that bill should have been welcomed by us,” he said.
That doesn’t excuse or negate the past. National Review was a journal of some impact then, and Buckley was a public figure. But I’m a temporal moral relativist, you can’t judge the people of the past by the same standards you judge those of the present. A substantial number of Americans alive today were alive during the 1950s and 1960s; and a substantial number of those Americans were opponents of the civil rights movement. One assumes that the majority of these have changed their minds as well. There is even a former Ku Klux Klan member, Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, serving in the Senate. Byrd also filibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which he now regrets. The follies of youth are often the follies of one’s age in the more general sense. Perhaps we who are a bit younger will also have cause to feel some shame in our old age when we reflect back, and realize that we too were simply fellow travelers in the spirit of the times.
Note: Speaking of things that might surprise you, Charlton Heston was a civil rights activist. Heston is proud of this obviously because it looks good now; but there was a time when this would have been controversial for a public figure who wanted to maximize his market appeal. To paraphrase Michael Jordan, segregationists bought movie tickets too!
Update: Go here for a more detailed explanation of William F. Buckley Jr’s stances on civil rights, then and relatively recently. As I noted in the comments apologia for segregation was not that abnormal in the 1960s. I pointed out below that J. William Fulbright was also part of the filibuster in 1964 against the Civil Rights Act. But later due to his opposition to Vietnam he became something of an icon, and in the 1970s Fulbright changed his mind (or blacks were enfranchised and so he changed his politics) on the race issues.