The First Amendment; Martin Walsh
WGBH Boston of cooperation with the Institute for Democratic communications at the School of Communications with Boston University now presents the First Amendment and a free people and examination of civil liberties in the media. In the 1970s and now here is the director of the US to two core Democratic communications Dr. Bernard Ruben. Certainly there's nothing more important if the First Amendment is to mean anything then for community relations to be as good as possible. That is this is of the greatest possible interest to all of us as individuals to our city and state governments and certainly to the federal government. And since the civil acts right have nine thousand nine hundred sixty four there has been an organization the community relations service of the Department of Justice which is actively doing work in this area. One of my two guests tonight is the regional director of the community relations service for the federal Department of Justice Mr. Martin Walsh Mr. Martin de won't you. Mr Walsham has
had a very distinguished career. Last December 14th he was awarded the second highest award in the Department of Justice the attorney general's award for distinguished service among other hair raising tales that he's had on his career was being in a car subject to CROSSFIRE at Wounded Knee between the Indians and another dissident group representing the federal government the CROSSFIRE was perhaps the only place to be at the time. He's had experience in communities as far flung as Indianapolis in Prince George's County Maryland. My other guest is the well-known journalist and also professor of journalism at Boston University Carol rivers. Mr. Walsh can I start out by asking you this question. Right now you're in the middle of the hair raising disturbing desegregation crisis that's been going on for years here in in the
Boston area and in the nation as well. We're all we know in the situation are we making progress to bring communities together. Wells particularly about Boston I think the there's been major progress over the past years and I think in general we can make the assessment that we're right now in the downswing of the cycle of violence through nonviolence and community acceptance of an issue which is a major social problem creating a great amount of change an entailment of a large number of difficulties for people to adjust to. So I think that where we have a high mark of problems and violence in 1074 there is come a about a more realization that the law is the law of the land and that some of these difficulties which have been entailed. People can adjust to and they have started to adjust to them in Boston. So I think at the present time to answer specifically we are
in a in a time of transition where we can see perhaps the end of especially of federal involvement in the in the desegregation efforts in Boston in a school system which will become the segregated in the people are adjusting to it Carol. Do you see bitter enders as losing power as as time goes on. Well I think what takes place in the community with a problem like this of desegregation is that you have a number of persons who resisted and feel that. Perhaps through resistance the change will take place. But then you have the inevitable social type of dynamics taking place where with the law being reinforced and people the majority of our people who do a bit of the law adjust to it. That theirs comes about the realization that this is what is going to be and make the other adjustment to it.
I see when when we look at other issues that are involved in your work where do you find the grievous problems and where do you find some hope. Well I think the greatest problems probably lie in the areas of ministration of justice police minority community relationships in the Tahrir area whether it's in the streets in prisons. That's the major area of problems education is another. Just as Senator Birch by said the other day the violence in our schools is is a major problem not only the type of violence which is connected with such things a social change and racial problems but the violence of vandalism and other types of destruction and then also there's major types of areas as the American in problems faced by the American Indians and the type of demands and changes which they're exerting upon the country like here in the New England region of Maine in
Mashpee but in other places too trying to attain what they feel are their rights which which are considered by them to be violated. But given those type of specific things I think one of the concerns which we really have in the country is the fact that a number of people feel that racial problems and inequities discrimination because they are not in the forefront of the media are a thing of the past and I think to come to grips with these problems in a way which. It is a nonviolent approach which is perhaps paved through efforts in the communities to look at these types of problems and to deal with them in appropriate way will avoid some of the types of things we had in the 60s of violence or what was characterized in the 70s as that too much litigation and confrontations which are going through such things as ministries of control. One thing that pattern that bothers me that I see is that while the
cities have been sort of forced into change through such things as desegregation orders the suburbs seem more and more inclined to retreat into insularity. We found here in Boston that. Communities don't want Medco a voluntary busing program. They don't want low income housing. And I just wonder if we're not retreating toward a situation where we're always going to have you know a class warfare kind of situation predicted suburbia versus the increasingly poor and increasingly black or minority city to sort of piggyback on Carol's remark the Kerner Commission of the late 1960s ended up by saying that we were two nations or we had the prospect of being two nations very little has been done about that there's been a report issued within the last week which I don't know whether to take at face value or whether it's off the mark saying that we can expect further troubles in our cities because very little has been done. Are you are you of the opinion that the unresolved
problems of the 60s late 60s are still with us and the suburbs and so on have made very little progress as Carol says. Right in fact one of our reports to the new administration to President Carter deals with the the problems which we still. Who is remaining residing in our country that are there are three have not gone away there with us. The country has not dealt with them over the past eight years. I believe we had a program of benign neglect for not only minorities but for cities and what we have is what Carol's talking about this almost noose around the cities of. And it's become it's a racial noose and also it's a class news. And I think that unless we do some positive things related to the cities that to restore them to the vibrancy which is needed we are in for a lot of problems facing us down the road not in in is the report which came out from this commission which was study in the administration of justice problems and problems
of crime and otherwise in the in the nation looked at this thing and came to the same conclusions as our agency is has done. And I think perhaps with President Carter and a new administration looking at the cities and in some indications of response to that maybe we can avoid this. But it is a major problem in for example right now the courts. I feel that they're constrained by the decisions of the Supreme Court to do anything about the pattern of the sort of segregation of between the suburbs and central cities. And so it is I know a lot of calls to come for action taken by the new administration to do something about this. But I think it's also it's something which the American people really have to deal with. Look at it as the Kerner Commission Report said back in 1967. What do we want to have a nation which is coming apart two nations one black one white one city one non-city. And do we want that in all the social
consequences of that type of situation. Well it's curious but I sensed from your remark a certain sense a feeling of professional frustration at the chains of the tethers that kept you back over recent years when you had at least in the last few years a liberal. Attorney General at least from the point of view of the nation's press without commenting on the present attorney general your boss he certainly came in under a cloud of mysterious publicity worrying about his club memberships and so on and so forth. Is it possible that the very nature of American society with a man with a conservative background you might get somebody more willing to push ahead in this area than a man with a liberal background who is perhaps more constrained. Well I think everything which President Carter said in his
campaign and what Mr. Bell said in his testimony before Congress in his hearings of confirmation indicate that the administration has come to grips with these problems. I think there is a realization that cities are in grave trouble that perhaps some of the ways they formulas for dispersing funds for example have been Equus. And that the issues are going are going to be hard to deal with but there I think they're willing to take them take them on for example the the attorney general has indicated that there are a lot of these problems cannot just be resolved by litigation in the courts and he's talked about alternative programs neighborhood legal centers to deal with some of these the problems that are just accumulating in the courts and people just do not get a fair hearing and really cannot have justice when Justice delayed is justice denied we know and that's what's happening. And
President Carter says a lot of these problems which were those of the city's racial and other things he says we must talk it over get get to the roots of them in the skies how we can do it so I don't think he's looking for an easy solution yet he's pointed away saying in effect that these problems have to be dealt with or we can envision what the what the difficulties and the trouble down the road is. I have one thing I noticed you were part of the anti-poverty effort for a time. And it seemed to me that the conventional wisdom now has become of the war on poverty failed it big multimillion dollar programs can't work we've got to go to smaller programs. And yet I wonder whether that's true because it seems to me that the poverty program set up some very valuable mechanisms which have proved. Very useful sometimes in meeting these kind of prog problems I wonder what your assessment of it is. Well I think in the poverty program through the years has done some
valuable work especially I think in the community organization of stabilization. I think back then when I was in 1967 68 working on neighborhood corporations and they've been the talking about of the vibrancy and vitality of a city in it's made up of neighborhoods and where they were like in Boston to help those to make them into strong units because that's where the city is going to continue to grow. And what I see in Boston is a good example of a city that you know really has a great future if given the necessary attention and concern and what I think the partnership between the federal government to the city and the state in private business and the community been involved in in the direction we're going to get back to that community. Most of the troubles have been made by many people. The the problem that people see in Roxbury in Charles Town in places neighborhoods of the city where they
feel it. Right or wrong have been invaded other groups are coming in. Is it possible that we don't understand the word neighborhood or the word community and that we don't understand the logistics of helping a neighborhood by enlarging it by putting federal state money in to put schools over to neighborhoods by putting in the amenities so that people don't feel threatened. I think that what for what is attempted and what is has been called by you know Dr. Bob Detmer of most university is one of the experts as in Boston the third phase of the circulation efforts. This is one of the things which I think the court has been very much concerned about him Boston of of of giving something which is more than just the segregation and hopefully help in the communities through a process of and improving the educational endeavor that the strengths of those communities will be
will be used to build upon. So that for example in in various communities the what is what is this are there is enlarging the scope improving the education making the hope hopefully helping the people to see that while their residential community may be small say a South Boston or an East Boston or Charleston yet the interaction on many ways is going to be with a larger segment because that's what life is about. In the entire city of Boston how that goes The determines the vibrancy of Charlestown or South Boston and the whole Commonwealth so they see themselves more than just an isolated unit. They see themselves as a part of a larger picture in that it's an educational process which I think will give strength to that neighborhood in the city at large. If they see themselves as part of a bigger picture of fighting for the whole thing and seeing how the law in say in the desegregation thing doesn't necessarily have to be something negative but it
can help them in a positive sense by like for example Boston the surrogate you bring in a new type of resources business the universities improvement education and that's in effect making that neighborhood better for even their children to want to stay in because hey they're going to a good school. The school has improved the school rate the attendance fall out of the dropout is no longer 50 percent but in the person's going to go on to college or higher because college is one of many are working with them to improve. The quality of the of their education so it's builds upon the strength of the neighborhood and makes that neighborhood become a vibrant part of a whole. As a Federal Government official Carlos want to throw this in and we're going to get right to it. Federal government official you can't see much of a political nature I understand that I was a Federal Government official and I understand that. But I'm still going to ask this question when a chief executive of the United States in this difficult situation in Boston or Detroit or Cleveland or anyplace else makes the typical statement that has been made.
I personally don't agree with with this break up of our neighborhoods or I personally feel that everybody has a right to send their children and child to a neighborhood school and all the rest of it. But of course I want you to obey the law. Do you sometimes get up in the morning and shave and cut yourself seven times and you listen to the radio. I think the common hurt I think that leadership is probably the most important element in a country state or city going through a crisis and I think that positive leadership direction for the people who are going through change change is bad enough and the type of leadership assistance that is needed and that is pointing the way through the rocks and all the dangers of this change because it is it impacts upon persons in so many ways. And it is such a many ways for so emotional and traumatic experience. And I think leadership is that which charts the course
over difficult pass. CONAN Yeah a lot of people in Boston neighborhood who oppose desegregation feel very much cheated in sold out and what they say in their right when they say that they are being if there is social justice for them but other people buy their way up then they are made to see this larger community but the folks in Newton dont or the folks in West dont. Do you see that. Any attempt will now be made to bring social justice to the more affluent too bright to move into the social enclaves of suburbia or do you think this is just still too too hot an area to be attended by any administration. Well hell would howl the nation. I think our society goes about this is something I think which is going to dictate to put what type of restraints on our administration our leaders
because no Congress very office sets the laws. And if if the country is saying to Congress in effect you know this is the way we want it we want this noose to stay on our cities we want our lily white suburbs and with sprinkle those who have come up through and have reached an economic plateau to come out into the suburbs. Them then these these are. It's going to be very difficult to change that. But this is where leadership comes in. And I think the leadership pastor would not only be a national ministration political but it has to come from all various levels that people have to be aware of the consequences of this. Then back again to the Kerner Commission Report. Do we want to society which is really in effect goes toward apartheid where you have you know your suburb and then for your city leadership again mayors and governors and presidents have usually found it convenient to listen to the will
of the disturbed the voices that wind and say things that are tactfully unimpressive but don't lose any votes. We have had very few people in the United States in positions of authority come out with a brave stance. Where am I wrong in that view. That's true. And I think that's why you are on racial issues. Since 1968 we really haven't made very limited if any progress. Some would say you know we have had a deterioration of racial relations in the country. A recommitment this new administration too perhaps that kind of activism we have had in the past. Well I did see at the present time there is a there is a greater expectations from our from the in the communities in the cities among minorities and oftentimes of course great expectations. If they're not her unfulfilled lead to their volatile situation I think the
administration's concerned with human rights in other countries has to be reflected in what we do in human rights in the United States because other countries look just come back and say you know what are you doing to you know your minorities and to other forms that they may feel of various forms of discrimination or oppression when you know wounded need to switch from the cities to the to the equally important problem of the American Indians. Did you find the Indians. Absolutely. Frustrated. Did you find that something had come out of Wounded Knee or the occupation of Alcatraz the demonstration. Or do you find that the American Indian just just feels himself betwixt in between. Well I think it's one of the the American Indians Indian problem we're facing the United States and facing up to in varying fashions in the in the States because it is so different
was precipitated by some of the leadership just like in other types of problems. For somebody to show up at that time which was of AIM American Indian Movement precipitated with a takeover the be I a in Washington in 1972 and then would in the end it was a part of of perhaps tactics or whatever of frustration of trying to write what they felt were some of the wrongs. And so I think they were on the cutting edge at one time and in some of their says continued insofar as now it's becoming more staid may say but it has more explosive potential insofar as getting to land claims fishing right claims what the treaty rights and everything like this. And so the American Indian now supported more more by legal claims then in the past couple of years by demonstrations and other things to manifest their the their problems and perhaps outrage. Now we're fighting at a different a different level. But I the problem still
continue but I think that the confidence in the system is manifested that they're going through the system with the legal claims Carol. Yeah I remember in his always let the last few years of his life that life actually Martin Luther King put together an idea you know his poor people's march an idea which of course had it worked would've been terribly politically powerful not is to unite the poor both black and white as a power block in this country to try to lobby for the things that poor people needed. And I wonder since Dr. King is now dead and the Civil Rights Movement is you know very parish splintered. Do you see this kind of any chance for this kind of coalition ever again or was it a will the with button at that time. Oftentimes the potentials for coalition are frustrated by. Various problems like for example
desegregation as many ways fragments the type of coalition that could develop between black and whites who on other issues like especially economic issues. And yet at the same time there are certain movements that bring that bridge this gap between the poor to show that their concerns are are pretty much the same. Like for example the poverty program I think still works on a type of basis. Here in Boston under Bob Corday of the 11 regional offices and really black and whites are sitting down working on economic problems like this and really cut across. Cut through the racial problem get to jobs and things like this and I think the same thing with the AFLCIO labor movement tried to cut through the same thing Brigette on an economic pattern. I think you know if we can get through some of the more emotional type issues of race that you know you can those coalitions should it can be made.
Martin Walsh your regional director of the community relations service here in Boston. You're an advisor to judge guarantee and you guarantee from a number of years to three years now been really administrating a good deal of the Boston school system insofar as the segregation was. As an advisor and gathering information do you have the staff and resources to do your job to get the right information to him. First thing I'd give a correction of is that Judge never feels that he's a ministry in the schools ministry in the order which has placed some constraints upon the schools but this note is only meant to give you what you have. But as regards Stef we really never have enough staff to do carry out the job as we would really want to be able to do it. And this was occasion back in 1972 by President Nixon at the time cutting back our staff which we had 350 down to one hundred three and he said at that time
and his advisors that we no longer have any urban problems and the racial problems are a thing of the past. So it's unfortunate we have to cut back but with a limited staff and what oftentimes what we do is draw on some of our staff from other cities in the US the prive other places of some of the systems we leased when I said it he should have had a musical Company and I think Cornwall is how did the band play when they surrounded the world is upside down. So if the urban problem went away it obviously came back when he wasn't looking. It has other problems that if you know once you've got those White House guys out of the darky in uniforms the urban problem came back. It certainly was around in 68 when streets in Washington were burning and it has been around in the frustration of many young people in every city. Oh yes and the problems are there is like last year there were over 500 of different problems that we should have responded to but we just couldn't for lack of staff. Well we put limited resources into Boston most
as much as we can. Yet a lot of the problems in this region just Florida neglected on account of. We just don't have the staff to do it. What tend to be the major kind of problems that you respond to with it. Segregation questions housing discrimination when we are our agency responds to the same here in this region our ministration of justice police community type of problems and problems in prisons. That's a major major major one of the others the next one is education type problems problems of schools to desegregation is only one of the things here but violence in the schools the walkouts boycotts you name it that type of thing. I hate to break in here but it is absolutely necessary because of time I must say it's refreshing to meet a Federal government official who takes the job. Has any strong spirit citizen would take the job and speak so for what he believes in is very pleased that you've come as to meet Walsh the director of the community relations service for the Department of Justice
- The First Amendment
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- "The First Amendment is a weekly talk show hosted by Dr. Bernard Rubin, the director of the Institute for Democratic Communication at Boston University. Each episode features a conversation that examines civil liberties in the media in the 1970s. "
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