Last citizen; The present and the future
I I think that we will and I'd like to but let's move Claude's desegregation. In every area of American life all all in one take. I don't know. If you have the future given by Dr. Benjamin e-mail's president of Morehouse College in Atlanta Georgia. We'll hear more from Dr. Mays and others as we take up the matter of the present and the future. In this the final program in the series the last citizen. The Last of Us and the Negro in America a series of programs devoted to the extension of our knowledge of the largest minority group in the United States its problems and the problems it poses to all Americans. The last edition is produced by Radio Station WBA a Purdue University under a grant from the Educational Television Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association
of educational broadcasters. The discussions are the producer of the series E. W. Rector and Dr. Louis Schneider a professor of sociology at Purdue University. Today's program the negro his present and his future. Here now is Mr. Rector. For the past 17 weeks we have been exploring various facets of the life of the Negro in America. Today we shot and gauge in some general reflections about the materials we have covered. Our major question on organizing these reflections is this. Looking at the matter in terms of the interests and values of the Negro is there ground for optimism about his cause in the United States in the near future. Can we begin to answer that question of oh I believe there is warrant for some optimism even if it must often be an optimism tempered by caution. Let me try to indicate one ground of optimism to which numbers of students of race relations assign some importance. It's something we've been over but I think this is an appropriate time to stress it again when we look at the so-called Negro problem in all its facets in all its aspects in all its dimensions however you
wish to put it. I suppose it's rather easy for us to feel overwhelmed if we look for a solution which as you put it would be in line with the negro's interests and values. There are these considerable problems of prejudice of discrimination of psycho geisha. There are all the thousand and one problems that center on housing migration race relations in the large metropolitan centers crime delinquency and so on and on the ground of optimism I'm thinking obvious only the principle of hitting a balance of forces in strategic fashion that same old principle which Martin all emphasized so much. Let me venture some repetitions. The Negro's housing for an arbitrary starting point affect his health his health in turn is likely to affect his economic welfare his economic welfare his status and his status and it's turned his chances for decent housing. One can work on a variety of such chains all circles. Let's say again arbitrarily and using an extremely crude economic notion that it would take 100 billion dollars to solve in some sense
legal problems on the front tiers of housing health status and so on. If those problems were attacked one by one and if on each front of the Endeavor were to make maximum possible gains for the negro we might soon discover that a piecemeal approach like this was really our necessary or inapplicable unnecessary or inapplicable because of the chain or circle or factor or interaction phenomenon. One factor such as housing in a sort of interrelated factors when properly pushed could well start an entire upward movement on the same principle on which a relatively small rock one strategically displaced may cause an avalanche. Still pursuing the crude economic notion we might then discover that the cost would reduce from one hundred billion to one billion dollars. Of course these particular figures are not to be taken seriously. I gather then that you think that this general principle of strategic hitting of factors that can start ratifying action is a very important one and one that gives some genuine grounds for optimism. But would you mind making the matter perhaps a little clearer for us by
explaining further or qualifying your comments. I will try short of making an excessively lengthy speech. I do think the principle extremely important and one that does give Warren for some optimism. But I will qualify first it's a general one may even call it a formal principle. It does not give us specific directives and specific situations. It does not for example tell us how we may go to work in a particular community with its particular constellation of race problems and hit with the highest economy of effort and energy on the strategic things that will set up a beneficence spiral. Speaking of strategic factors in general does not tell us what the strategic factors and actual situations are. Also as we've suggested before you can get a strategic displacement or strategic push that will set off a rama following downward movement that is also cumulative and very powerful. Finally it's possible that in various particular situations you may get interference from outside the spiral. First as I believe
we've noted whites seeing the power of early ratifying cumulating effect of an upward spiral might still be in a position to put a halt to what by some kind of intervention shall I say from outside the spiral system. Of course there might be times when they could not readily do this or when they could not do what I thought. I take it that despite these qualifications your feeling is that the principle you have been talking about still warrants a certain degree of optimism. I take it too that you would agree that in the present day in the United States it is possible to see the upward or beneficence spiral at work. Yes Mind you it still does seem to me that a good bit of planning is necessary at various levels in order to make upward spiral of work with maximum effectiveness. Further a good deal of research is needed so that we may have better knowledge of what strategic factors are and of precisely how they work. Even not however there is a certain amount of pertinent knowledge and I shall add here at least for the time being to my qualified optimism on this whole matter. Well do you feel optimism on any other grounds.
I do again providing that there are certain qualifications and antipathy to those who have different skin color and practices of segregation and discrimination are learned sentiments and actions. In the words of the song from South Pacific you've got to be carefully taught. Well just how does this give grounds for optimism prejudice and discrimination. Learn from others. Human beings are not naturally prejudiced. Prejudice is not carried in the germ plasm a new generation of southerners not raised in the South but in an environment free of prejudice would itself be free of prejudice. Now I'm putting this in a simplified way. We must remember that prejudice is often sustained by the gains that come from discrimination. It may be also that human beings have certain impulses toward the assertion of the primary primacy of their own interests. That will always constitute a kind of seed bed for the emergence of plants like prejudice. I'd like to develop these qualifications but let me come back to my general assertion prejudice and discrimination or at least so
much a matter of learned culturally transmitted behavior that on a practically oriented attacks on them can profit greatly from taking this into account. Of course in the south certain antipathetic attitudes toward the Negro are culturally transmitted from one generation to the next and I know you are aware that this can happen in the north too but you can't mean that this gives you grounds for optimism. Hardly but my stress is just on the cultural side of the muddle cultures do change. Granted in the light of certain values they may change for the worse but it's this year changeability that I'm now emphasizing. In other words simple and elementary though a day it's an extremely valuable bit of knowledge that we show that we have when we say quite correctly the southern negro white situation is subject to change. It can be changed. It may even be changed very radically at least in the course of time. Please notice that I am indeed trying to be cautious in the optimism that I am expressing. It may well be that the more or less affective elimination or solution of the
so-called race problem in the United States may bring new and serious problems in its trade. But this is a large subject by itself and it's not our concern today. Again the cultural element unprejudiced does make us see the sheer possibility of considerable change. Now why would you go from here would you for example also see as a ground for optimism. The democratic heritage of this country. Would you agree with myrtle that the American creed is a really powerful thing. I think the Creed does have power considerable power. At the same time there have been and there are First forces that work against it. If the creed had the field to itself we would get a certain simplicity that we obviously don't find. But as far as the Negro is concerned very definitely the existence of the creed is both a major hope and a major resource. While it seems to me pretty clear that the activity of the protest and and defense organizations which we reviewed is based on the promise and the hope that Americans will be ultimately responsive to the negro's of pealed American
principles of democracy justice and so on. I recall also that we made the point of discussing protest as a whole and an historical perspective. Now there has been a long time shift from a principle of no expectations from the white man and his cultural heritage to a principle of moral appeal and reliance on the notion that the white man's political and religious principles can be made to work for the negroes cause. Yes yet again we have to be cautious historical experience must and use caution. Political principals are subject to a remarkable degree of twisting and turning from the same general political doctrine men are capable of the juicing that all should be free but also of the juicing that a great number should be slaves. Religion too can be used as for example it has been used in South Africa to justify a very subordinate status for a colored population. In fact as we know things like these have happened in the United States. We are nevertheless currently in a phase in which as far as the Negro is concerned there is an obvious disposition despite a certain
amount of resistance to it. An obvious disposition to construe political and religious doctrines in such fashion as to forward the negro's interests that Negroes themselves currently think constantly in terms of democratic political principles is clear. And also one cannot help noting a very considerable stress among the negro leadership of religious principles. It may be that despite the popularity and importance of figures like Dr. Martin Luther King the negro professional leadership is shifting away from the ministry as such. At the same time one gets the impression that the appeal to and belief in religious notions that are made to bear on the negro situation are still very persuasive and very important in the outlook of many needs. Well what you're saying reminds me very much of a brief statement which we elicited from Miss Polly Murray a negro author and attorney to whom we have listened before on these programs. We asked Mr. Murray how she thought the nation may have benefited from the presence within it
of the Negro people. And in her answer she touches in her own way the very things you mention. I think the nation has benefited in many ways but I think two ways stand out as dramatically significant. The presence of the Negro in this country has provided the United States with a test tube. For democracy. The political theory of democracy is one of the most difficult to carry out in practice because it rests upon the assent of free people and rests upon the discipline of the individual to accord every other individual in the society the same rights which he has now. The peculiar contradictory background of the negro as a
slave in a country that was founded upon the principle that all men are created free and equal. Has set up a constant contradiction within this young Iraq American democracy of a gap between its principles and its practices and having selected the most difficult of political theories upon which to found our country. We have within our own citizenship. Every color and kind in a sense of mankind throughout the world. The largest single minority group being the negro therefore the Negro has acted as a barometer of democracy a measuring rod How effective are
we as a democratic country. How near are we to achieving this goal of democracy which we believe is the best possible political organization in the world. The preoccupation. Of the negro with the implementation of democracy has kept Americans sensitive to these founding principles and sensitive to the goal which we hope to achieve in the long run. And the second great contribution of the Negro which I think is. Partially comprehended by many Americans is the spiritual quality which has grown out of this
experience of oppression and slavery. That is the ability to patiently work toward first class citizenship without continuous violent rebellion. The self-restraint and the discipline which negroes by and large have shown throughout this a long long struggle for human dignity. And I think that this has been particularly dramatized. In these incidents in recent years in the south in the Munk armory boycott for example and in the exemplary behavior of the nine Little Rock Arkansas students and of Mrs. Bates their leader in facing violence and facing humiliation with almost superhuman dignity and restraint. And when you interview these people and talked
with them you found that they would say we prayed before we left home in the morning and that we have a great belief in God and but for our faith in God we never would have made it. And I think that every country if it is great must have great spiritual roots. I don't mean sectarian roots but great spiritual roots. And I think negroes have been forced to develop this spiritual quality and I think America is the richer for it. There's two full political and religious appeal or reference comes up time and again in the interview materials you gathered. I recall that when you asked Benjamin Mays the well-known negro educator what the future holds for the Negro in the United States he too reverted to these constants appeal to political principle appeal to religious principle. This is extremely important it seems to me as revealing the growing
hope and Negro sentiment. Well let's listen to Dr. Mays then as he answers our question. What does the future hold now yeah said to test this question a lot. I think when. Where do we get a chance to look at I was said was we we're going to move along. You see never as a long time. And I don't believe in a man that is wise enough to predict that they'll never be. And it is segregation in his state. When a man talks like that he is easy as he is assuming the role of God. And I don't think that anybody has a right to play God.
I I think that we will and ever to boldly move towards desegregation. In every area of American life. A lot of hate. I don't know. If we do not move that way. We should give up our leadership in the world as a as a great democracy. And we should stop talking to the people in ajor and Africa about freedom and about democracy and we should stop trying to evangelize us to either us. So.
I will I will moral leadership in the world. Is is is it stay and as long as we will hold on to. To the American Constitution and it long as we. Preach Christ and talk about God being the father of all mankind we can't we can't stop working on his problem to make it possible for every American to have the right to grow and to develop unhampered in keeping with his abilities and with his palms. We we can't move any other way unless we have Glenn did it come
off asss state and that America can't afford to let me come in again at this point to note that our stress has been that there are certain grounds for optimism about the negro's cause in the United States. The last general model we've been discussing in this connection is the matter of democratic principles and we've just noted that the Negro has hopen and makes appeals to them just as he appeals to religious principles. There is also some ground for hope for the negroes cause in the expectation and criticism of peoples abroad. A thousand and one witnesses testified to the fact that critical eyes focused on the United States. Especially in respect of the Negro problem I was connected with the Democratic face the United States wishes to turn to the world. I think that this may ultimately be of some importance in forming up more democratic treatment of the negro. And yet wouldn't you admit that some segments of the white population of the United States might be
willing to pay the price and ill will among nations abroad for continuing to practice discrimination against the negro. Of course I admit such possibilities there are hard choices to be made in connection with the negro and there is no guarantee that they will always be made as the negro would like to see them married. Well I notice that you use the phrase hard choice. Interestingly enough Mr Harold Fleming director of the Southern Regional Council developed this notion in a quick review of areas in which Southerners do face hard choices. When we spoke with him in Atlanta some time ago Mr Fleming stresses several things we've already stressed in today's program and adds one or two things which we might well have paid more attention to. Let us say the South is committed at the moment to its official leadership is committed to two things. It's committed to the advancement of the south's economy the growth of the modern urban industrial complex in the south. And it's devoted to the preservation of segregation as a kind of absolute.
We believe and I think a good many students of the question believe that these two things are incompatible. And sooner or later in every given situation the doctrine of hard choices may be expected to operate. That is a community or a state is going to have to choose whether to advance its economic progress its industrial growth and the orderly growth and functioning of its cities or whether to. Dedicate itself to a an unyielding. Absolutist that here on student segregation. This is true for a variety of reasons but. Two things main mainly and that is the insistence of negroes and selves which I don't think will go away. That these changes come about. And secondly the. Increasing. Unmounting. Pressures in terms of legal and administrative. Actions.
Within the national government. There is also the opinion of the rest of the country and the rest of the world that has to be considered. In these choices. That's one example there are a number of hard choices involved. Some of them of the ethical and moral nature. If it becomes apparent that the only way to resist the advance of desegregation is by violence or illegal means obviously that the great majority of white Southerners would be Lowell's to resort to these methods and like people anywhere would very much be very much opposed to the breakdown of law and order. Again you see a doctrine of hard choices. Similarly the south is referred to as the Bible Belt. And there is a great deal of religious activity a religious commitment in the south. Again. Religious values as against the traditional folk values of the
SOLs in the field of race that is adherence to segregation are in conflict basically. And when those that conflict becomes very sharp and very immediate these values really have to be weighed against each other in a choice made as to which is more important. And though it may not seem so at a distance there is terrific inner conflict. Within the south today that is within the individual white Southerner and within the White South as a group as between individuals within the white south. There's a great deal of conflict a great deal of distress aspera as these values clash and have to be selected among the last assertion of Mr. Fleming to the effect that there's a great deal of conflict and distress of spirit is pertinent given the way our discussion has gone today. I think it's worth remarking that there seems little doubt that this kind of conflict
motivates desires to proceed gradually. I feel we should say some things about gradualism in general. For one thing the watchword gradualism tends to become a slogan for people who believe themselves to be thinking wisely when they reflect or say well something like this just has to be done gradually. This kind of thinking of thinking is the word for it is really quite useless. Granted there may be factors in various situations that require a slackening of pace. Just as there may be factors for that matter in other situations on the basis of which one could confidence a speeding up of pace. But we have to use our heads in the become sad when all we can find them and in them is slogans. Let me illustrate what I mean. Those who like gradualism as such and persuade themselves that they have caught on to a philosophy are very likely to be little extremism. One wonders if they have ever thought through what extremism in this context really means. I think very apt in this
connection some words by William Peters author of the Southern temper and able journalistic survey of the present day self. Mr. Peters writes as follows. But who are the extreme desegregation assts Martin Luther King with his doctrine of nonviolent resistance. Thurgood Marshall with his reasoned arguments before the Supreme Court Catholic archbishop Joseph Rommel with his statement that racial segregation is morally wrong and sinful one looks in vain to find the segregationists who have used or even advocated violence or unlawful means to attain their ends. If I understand you then you are making an appeal to us really to think about these problems. Slogans and phrases such as we've got to do this thing gradually at least when they're not tied closely to analysis of and thinking through of real situations sound quite hollow quite. And on this note we end the series of programs. When you from the beginning that the whole story of the Negro in America would be impossible to
tell no matter how much time we might have had to do so. However we believe we have touched a number of the high spots of that story. It is clear even with the story necessarily incomplete and with much left out that we would have liked to include But the problems of the last citizen will take much thought much planning. And the most varied kinds of action before we can come anywhere near to some kind of resolution of them. And come closer. We would like to extend our thanks to Dr. Lowell Snyder and to the many people who have contributed their time and words to the production of the last citizen the negro and America.
- Last citizen
- The present and the future
- Producing Organization
- Purdue University
- WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program assesses the present for African Americans, as well as the possibilities for the future.
- Other Description
- A series of programs devoted to exploring the problems facing African-Americans and how these issues impact all Americans.
- Broadcast Date
- Social Issues
- Media type
Guest: Murray, Pauli, 1910-1985
Guest: Mays, Benjamin E. (Benjamin Elijah), 1894-1984
Guest: Fleming, Harold C.
Host: Schneider, Louis
Producer: Richter, E.W.
Producing Organization: Purdue University
Producing Organization: WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-50-18 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Last citizen; The present and the future,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 23, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-9c6s2s6d.
- MLA: “Last citizen; The present and the future.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 23, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-9c6s2s6d>.
- APA: Last citizen; The present and the future. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-9c6s2s6d