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JFK: “I Don’t Think Racial Quotas Are a Good Idea”

Aug. 20, 1963 - President Kennedy said today that he disapproved of employment quotas based on race. This device has been proposed as a means of correcting the effects of past discrimination against Negroes in hiring. The theory is that Negroes should be given jobs in rough proportion to their representation in the population. The President told his news conference today, however, that he felt such a solution would lead to a “good deal of trouble.” American society, he said, is too complex and too mixed to make such a practice feasible. Mr. Kennedy said Negroes had suffered a long accumulation of injustices. But he doubted the nation could repair the past through any scheme of special or preferential compensation. The greatest need of the Negro both in redressing his grievances of the past and improving his lot in the present, the President said, is education. Negroes would like to see their children well educated, he said, “so that they could hold jobs” and become “accepted as equal members of the community.” “I don’t think we can undo the past,” Mr. Kennedy asserted. “I don’t think quotas are a good idea.”

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