"Americans live in a political and social milieu fundamentally shaped by the White countermovement. They talk about rights, race, and citizenship in ways that echo, recall, and affirm the countermovement, but rarely realize they are doing so. They live in a society the countermovement helped to create, but shunt any but the most caricatured memory of it to the side. Studying John Stennis compels us to confront these uncomfortable connections. He is not easily marginalized as a vanquished bigot. He lingers in the historical record, a quiet witness to a story of change and retrenchment that is not as triumphant as Americans often imagine. For me, his most basic relevance is found in the sobering awareness that the patterns and structures of my life frequently reproduce racial privilege rather than weaken it. To see oneself in Stennis is not to diminish his culpability. It is to embrace ours."
From my thesis, now available online.
(Click the link and scroll to the bottom of the page for a pdf download)