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This is the 25th in a series of programs and titled seeds of discontent presenting the program tonight as Harvard Smith Jr. assistant professor in the School of Social Work Wayne State University. Professor Smith before getting into tonight's program I would like to make the following statement. Due to several inquiries about a program done two weeks ago regarding the programs and policies of the United Community Services of metropolitan Detroit I along with Mr. David Lewis producer of the series would like to point out that the interviews with Mr. he likely managing director of the United Community Services and Miss Conny Frederickson president of the local Social Workers Union were conducted at different times and at different places. It was not our intent to confuse anyone or to make it appear that they were in the same room. It was found that this tick technique that was used would polarize the issues involved more clearly. This announcement should in no way be taken as a lessening of the charges that were made against
United Community Services on that programme. While the past two programs we have been looking at various private and governmental agencies are doing about the problems in urban centers which has led to such a rapid build up of discontent and rebellion on the part of an increasingly large number of citizens. We were particularly interested in what is being done in the way of developing new ideas and programs that might eventually lead to more meaningful jobs quality education better housing better police community relations new structures for greater involvement of those who are alienated. And finally programs and leadership that will help to eradicate the longstanding problem of racism in American society. On tonight's program our spotlight will be on the Michigan legislature. We will be talking with Senator Coleman Young from the 4th senatorial district a district within the inner city of Detroit.
As a representative of this district Senator Young has had a chance to see and work in an area which has all of the symptoms and causes of the current level of unrest and the discussion that follows. We will be asking him to comment on how he sees the Michigan legislature responding to the needs of areas such as the one that he represents the degree to which the Michigan legislature and other bodies react to trouble areas such as a four senatorial district in a positive manner. Well in the long run determine whether we move on to a better more peaceful society or move towards a more tragic existence for all. Senator you know our purpose in talking with you is to try to get a better look and some new insights into what is happening on the Michigan legislative scene prior to getting into this discussion tonight. I had a chance to hear a speech that you made before the 17th district
Democrats and then that speech you stated that there was going to have to be a greater impetus and movement toward a coalition of black and white political forces. I wonder if you take a few minutes before we move into a discussion of Michigan legislature to reemphasize or summarize the point for us again. Well it seems to me that if any of the basic problems that face our society are to be solved it will have to be done by democratic methods. It will have to be done on the basis of majority of the people that we need to go in the right direction. Negroes in Michigan comprise about 10 percent of population in Detroit some 40 percent of the population. And obviously by themselves. By the power of the ballot will not be able to basically control the direction of events.
They can do soul and coalition. With all the other elements in the population. And so it is my contention that this type of course which adds up to a majority is necessary to democratically change the direction of society. I don't think there's any big mystery to that it's a mathematical obvious fact. Are you looking at the present mood or the attitude of the Michigan legislature in conjunction with this concept of a coalition of black and white political forces. Do you feel that the current attitude steps that they are taking is going to make this more possible or are just what is happening on the legislative scene now. I mean in terms of some of the known problems of problems which the Kerner report has emphasized problems of housing of jobs of somehow creating a better.
Set of social conditions within the inner city what is being done in that regard at this time. Well. First of all the present session. Is a continuation. Of the special session in terms of mood. And direction. And so far in terms of accomplishment is a competent exactly nothing and the direction necessary to move in order to get at the root of the problems that face us in our urban areas. In fact the members of the Michigan legislature act as if they live in another world. Than that I lived and observed by. The president's commission. Which drew up the Kerner report this commission emphasizes a growing polarization alienation between black and white in our
society. The necessity for massive an immediate social steps. To correct the underlying conditions responsible for the explosions we witnessed. And warns against punitive. Measures in recriminations or excesses by police and law enforcement agencies. This legislature has consistently rejected any measure designed to get to the root of the problem including open housing. We will be discussing open housing us sometime this week probably for the Senate in the Senate for the first time. It was rejected as you know last fall in the house. We have passed any number of so-called anti-riot bills. Including one which provides that for more people constitute a mob and therefore a riot. Others which give a blank check.
To the state police and setting up a reserve which I call a vigilante. Organization. And still others would extend fantastic the powers of martial law. Two heads of all local units of government including the village and township supervisors or. Whoever happens to be acting in their place. Extends to do these are local officials who have a little means were having any real knowledge of an of an overall situation. The right to impose martial law in their areas including. A sale of liquor by an position of curfew. A designation which the dwellings or buildings can be used to control of traffic and in fact of martial law.
Allows 25 percent of the local units of government in a given county to petition a prosecutor who can then impose martial law on a whole county. And Wayne County it could mean for instance that a coalition of Dearborn rules point Zug Island NY and not. Could impose martial law on a city Detroit. Irrespective of the wishes of Detroit City Council its mayor its population its ridiculous lol. It's probably unconstitutional but I think these laws that typical. Of the mood and the direction of today's legislature were going in exactly the wrong direction. So this point it would appear at least that is opposed to action which might eventually bring the society closer together that the Michigan legislature at this point might even be
contributing to a greater polarization of various ethnic groups in society. I think that's definitely true to the degree that the voice of hysteria. And the voice of the mob and bigotry has become the voice of our legislature. To the degree that we have dealt and punitive and repressive measures and feel to deal with the social problems of the day. Such a basic problem is education housing and employment. Have been neglected. I know I've heard quite a bit of controversy about either a potential Bill Maher or one that was being considered that would give certain powers to the Michigan state police to to expand. Their forces utilizing I believe retirees or
would you expand on that a bit I guess I'll read passed the bill recently and the Senate for the second time we passed a similar bill doing a special session. And the house had the good sense to sit on it. And to ignore it. We've come back with the same bill. Doing another special session and immediately after the civil disorders Colonel Davids the director of the state police appeared before us several committees of the legislature with a number of request. Among them was a request for a special state police reserve. Colonel David was very specific. He asked first that this reserve consist of retired state troopers or retired police officers from other Michigan police organizations too that its duties be confined to the
local police headquarters and be of the people or work type that is. Attending the radio answering the telephone and doing normal procedure work at the desk. Three that the numbers. Be sharply limited. And for that they not have. The general arresting authority of state troopers outside the station house. His police was for up a few hairy specialize then sharply restricted or reserved. The bill that we passed had no relationship to Colonel David's request there was a wide open blank check bill that failed to place any limitation on who would be eligible for this reserve. It started age 21. It was not restricted to retired state police in fact it didn't require
any previous uh police experience. It was not restricted into number. And it specifically stated that these reserves would be chosen in an emergency by the director of the state police and would serve as long as he desired. I would be empowered with the full authority of a regular Michigan state trooper. And for this is a far cry from a specialized and limit reserve of retired police officers who would perform functions around the office. To replace a trooper who might be called away. In a period of emergency. This appears to me to be something that we used to refer to as a vigilante force Exactly. Now last month again any speech that that you made you talked about the problem of police community relations.
Now looking at this from the state level we are aware than in the past five years there has been considerable displeasure on the part of many citizens with the present racial makeup of the Michigan police. A Michigan state police force has there been any action in this regard. And the way of achieving a greater balance from a point of view of racial make up of the Michigan State Police Force Michigan State Police is to all intents and purposes still lily white out of a fifteen hundred troopers. There is one negro trooper. Who was appointed as Trooper within the past year. I sense I others have been not sharply raising the question of the Jim Crow hiring practices of the state police. I think that one of the first
recommendations of the president's commission on distorted firsts supplementary and partial recommendation. Was that immediate attention should be given to integrating law enforcement agencies that would be charged with the responsibility of controlling civil is orders. This agency specifically directed its attention for this commission to the National Guard and to state police organizations. And to local municipal police forces. You are in practically every Keith. The representation of a negro policeman is well below their representation in the population. Michigan undoubtedly has one of the worst state police forces in terms of Negro absent Asian one out of a fifteen hundred. It also ranks lowest
as far as major city Detroit is concerned. Detroit ranks lowest of all major cities United States north or south. In the negro police officers approximately four point six percent. Of the Detroit Police Department is Negro. In a city where Negroes constitute 40 percent of the population. This is I say has the worst record of any sitting United States. The city of Philadelphia for instance which is comparable in size to city so it has some 24 percent. On the Go on a police force in fact of Philadelphia has more Sikh negro sergeants some two hundred forty five. Than there are total in the grove audience inspectors patrol and all. Under to our police force a yet in the state of these up. Obvious conditions are neither state police nor Detroit police
have seen fit to take the stranded and emergency steps recommended by the President's Commission or to correct the situation now as a representative of the four senatorial district now which is predominantly negro. You did and that speech last mine can make a number of recommendations I wonder if you would summarize it as I was recommendations for action. Yes I was as you know concerned with the composition of the police. Because up I believe that the basic attitude of the Detroit police force is a racist one that. The relationship between the Negro community and the Detroit Police Department are worse now than they've ever been and they've never been good. That the chief danger. To violence this summer.
Comes from the possibility and even the likelihood of provocation at the hands of a largely lily white police force up which few have been given a blank check authority by a common council and state legislature to go out and rough up and get tough. And push the Negro community around. I don't think the Negro community got take any push in Rome. I think we need to move with immediate speed to reorganize our police department. Or to make it a more representative of the legal citizens against whom it is expected to enforce the law and to take the steps necessary to guarantee. That a fifteen hundred a black policeman can be put on a force by June. And I think this is possible. First by. Reorganizing the department that would include the immediate promotion of two negro officers to the top five positions. It's commonly
regarded that the Big Five is the controlling force within the police department. That includes a superintendent of police to Deputy Superintendent of Police and top brass and department. There are two vacancies or they were. I think that the mayor should immediately appoint two niggles to these top positions. Secondly a negro should be appointed in command. Of those precincts in Detroit that are predominately negro. Now these would include the 10th precinct. I live in the light. Of the Woodward Avenue precinct. Which I believe is the 13th the Mack. Ome would station which is a seventh I believe and the Jefferson Station which I believe is the fifth of the at least these four should be commanded by negro losses. There should be dramatic up promotions of
Negro authors throughout the system certainly in these key areas and in addition. A police review board a citizen's police review board must be set up that will place a review of police abuses by charges of abuse by citizens in the hands of citizens. We must get away from the situation that now exist where the police review. Charges against police. These steps I think would change the image. Of the department. And make it possible then. To launch an all out recruiting drive that would attract young negroes and give them reason to believe that they will be treated with dignity and have a future in a department. There are many steps that have been taken by other departments to do this. One of the most dramatic I think took place in Philadelphia is to provide a service whereby those who feel they examine Asian the written exam could be trained
to pass the exam. Will 50 percent of the negro applicants for police implement now or fail the written. There's no reason that this should happen. This can be eliminated by proper training. Another area of elimination is that our false criteria such as arrest the records which have no relationship to convictions at least should be completely limit his considerations. Employment records should be eliminated it's fantastic when we acknowledge the negro victims of discrimination and in employment and therefore have the worst jobs to use the fact that they have a bad employment record. As a reason for eliminating them from good employment. And it's pretty obvious that if you don't have a good job you can have good credit. And so credit record should also be eliminated as criteria for eligibility Adly that the minimum step that I've outlined could dramatically change the picture and put us in the position
of democratizing our police force. There's one other proposal that came out of our conference. And I don't know why it hasn't happened. It's pretty obvious. That any law enforcement agency attracts its share of sadists and kooks. We recommend that all members of the police department. Be subjected to psychological examination to determine the potential bigots among those are presently on a force and screen out bigots among applicants. These are obvious steps I think would go a long way. Toward getting rid of some of the pathological. Problems and bigots that we now have in the department and I think any question we have such. At the present time. There does appear to be then some reluctance on the part of both the Michigan legislature and city police
to move in this direction. Yes. I have introduced a bill in the legislature. To encourage. The police to integrate. I think one of our problem with a long form of the police often underpaid and I believe the state should assist cities. In their effort to attract high caliber of police often to pay them. I attach the state subsidy to the requirement that no police department can expect expect state subsidy until it employs. The proportion of Negro officers that is equal to the proportion of negroes in the population in order for Detroit to qualify right now do you have to pick up about 800 negro policemen in the herd. What would you are how would you explain what appears to me to be at this time certainly a vacuum in leadership at the
state level. Now in the past there have been frequent complaints from many quarters said that gradually the federal government is usurping the powers of the state. But it appears to me that the state governments particularly and legislative bodies in responding to crises are becoming somewhat of the graveyard of our political system. How would you explain this phenomena as it is developing. Certainly in our state I'm sure that can be found in other states throughout the country. Well I think that state the state legislature in Michigan certainly is attempting to act as a barometer and weathervane. To public opinion. As he reacted to. The worst instincts of the general
public rather than exercise the leadership responsibility that it must. In fact the state legislatures are historically. Have shied away. From their responsibility for meeting the problems of the city's urban areas and the schools. Which is precisely why the federal government has been able to move into this vacuum. And while you hear anguished cries from many state capitals. Against this invasion of states rights on the part of the federal government there was no indication from where I sit in Michigan that the state is willing to live up to its responsibilities in any area of education. Urban problems and certainly the basic problem of the day which is the racial problem.
I. As a final question I'd like for you to simply look back at the many contacts which you have had and you grow community and looking at the attitude of the Michigan legislators. What do you see in the immediate future. Are you troubled about what you see. Do you feel that we are somehow going to be able to pull things together. Well I am troubled. Based on what I was feat there is no indication that the Michigan legislature will come anywhere close to meeting the challenge. The conditions which were responsible for last summer's explosions are still exist and exacerbated form. The likelihood of provocation at the hands of police or describe if we had to have a cool and peaceful summer. It will largely be
because of the coolness and forbearance of the black people in our community and not because of any understanding displayed by the elected leadership of those charged with the responsibility of keeping the peace. Senator Young I would like to thank you for spending this time with us to discuss these very vital issues with us. If the picture on the state legislative sane seems bleak. The actions and attitudes of federal legislators as a whole does not supply any great reasons for hope. The old conservative Republican Southern Coalition is firmly entrenched again and seems bent on pushing the country towards a suicidal course in the area of social welfare measures have been passed which are downright punitive and irrational. The war in poverty has been greatly restricted. And there is a gross degree of unreality surrounding their attitude about prevention of civil disorders and many seems
Seeds of discontent
Episode Number
Episode 25 of 26
Producing Organization
Wayne State University
WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Series Description
For series info, see Item 3313 and 3314. This prog.: Assessment of the response, attitude and action by the Michigan State Legislature in the aftermath of the Detroit riots of 1967.
Social Issues
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Producing Organization: Wayne State University
Producing Organization: WDET (Radio station : Detroit, Mich.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-15-25 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:50
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Chicago: “Seeds of discontent; Episode 25 of 26,” 1968-08-23, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 22, 2023,
MLA: “Seeds of discontent; Episode 25 of 26.” 1968-08-23. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 22, 2023. <>.
APA: Seeds of discontent; Episode 25 of 26. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from