Comment on a minority; Harold C. Fleming
Comments on the minority. We have had a legal redefinition. Of. What equal rights. Mean. Which means that that. A more democratic society in the south. In which Negro citizens participate and from which they benefit. Like other citizens is now under written law. The difficulties now arrive with rising costs and. Trying to translate. These legal. Realities into the practical everyday realities and Southern communities. The voice is not going to go there and chilling a good deal of the executive director of this dozen regional councils change a nonprofit agency in many lives and lives every night in his home to lead services in the field of race relation tical figures. Mr. Fleming was interviewed in the southern rediscount as Atlanta largest Office Depot but also looser E-W Richter's started during the summer of 1955 really. The reason his comments today are taken from that longer interview you see from the
very beginning the South has build that say Kaname its political institutions. Its social institutions. On. The basis of segregation. The Supreme Court School decisions and 954. Were not the first major. Impact for change on the south but. These decisions were the most far reaching. Legal expression. Of the changes required of the South. They came at a time when the South was undergoing major transition and its economic and social fabric. Mass movements of people from the rural areas to the cities basic changes in the. Industry. Rather in basic increase in the industry. In southern cities and a swing away from the old agrarian type of economy to a new urban. What might be called a modern industrial society. Still a good way to go on that but
the number of people who've been displaced whose way of life has changed tremendously in this includes both rights and they grows. And since World War 2. Has been a major. Major upheaval in the south. Now part of this whole process of course has been a redefinition of the negro status. And it's probably inevitable that the South would undergo a kind of. Period of. Disruption and difficulty of tension as all of these changes have been crowding in in a very short period of time. And naturally those people who. Have derived their importance that leadership what they conceive of as their position in life. From the old institutions. To which segregation was an essential. Are resisting rather strongly this emotionally loaded. Change. In our way of life.
This is very much true of the political leaders for the. Simple. Reason that politics are likely to involve those things about which people feel most strongly and they're bound to be a certain number of people who seek to make capital out of whatever is distressing people at the moment. These are the difficulties we face now. Basically I believe that the South is moving. Clearly in the direction of desegregation legal desegregation. And that. Without. Major catastrophes or setbacks. We may expect that the Southern states perhaps sooner than we think. Will be operating. On. A legal structure that does not differentiate between citizens because of their race. But for the next few years clearly we are in for a great deal of controversy tension and here and there even violence perhaps.
This sort of seems to lead us right into something we were discussing before we turn the microphone on Mr. Fleming. And that is the. What I heard termed as the doctrine of hard choice. Would you like to discuss this. Yes. I think. It's a. Very interesting idea. I don't know whether it really is achieve the status of a doctrine or not. But certainly it is truer than most people in the south realize. That ultimately. These the decision. Decisions that are going to have to be made in southern communities as to compliance with court decisions. As to changes generally in the racial pattern. Do not involve a simple one to one. Choice between all. Of. Those people. Those preferences for desegregation. And those preferences for the status quo in race
relations but rather. Involve the very complex choices among those values which are important to Southern as as they are to people elsewhere. That is let us say the South is committed at the moment 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 mainly 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 illegal means obviously that the great majority of white Southerners would be loath 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 South 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
between individuals within the. White South. There's a great deal of conflict a great deal of distress of spirit. As these. Values. Clash. And to be selected among. Mr. Fleming there is a tendency of a lot of people to consider the. Plight of the Negro a Southern problem. Would you like to explore this thought a bit for us. Yes of course they problem is national and its effects. For example if we assume as I do. That. Whatever happens in the field of race relations and right race relations in the south. Has a very definite effect on this nation's. Status and leadership in the international field. The international security of the nation if you want to put it that way. In those terms in terms of wasted manpower of
wasted human resources. In terms of. The political process and who participates and after all we all. Throughout the country have bound by the decisions made by the night the Congress the House and the Senate. And the south certainly sends the chair of Representatives there the way in which those representatives the chosen may affect the rest of the country just as much and sometimes more than it affects the south. And I think everybody pretty much accepts the fact that the South has not only had his proportionate share of representation in the national lawmaking body but. Has managed to wield a disproportionate influence there. So in those terms what happens in the south certainly has national and even international consequences. But there's also the point one which I must say a good many southern political leadership leaders are fond of making. That. The North and the West are getting more and more. Of the
problem itself in the sense that race relations. Is becoming race relations difficulties are becoming much more common in the large cities of the north and the West as Negroes migrate from the south and rather large numbers. And I think it's at this point that. People who live outside the South. Can. Take a very personal and immediate view of race relations. And should do so. Because many of the same. Myths and problems that have pounded the south for so long. Have Come on comfortably close to home. In these large non southern cities. The South practice of segregation really does not mean separation. In any physical sense it's a social separation. Social distinction. Definition of place. The negro of course defined as a subordinate. That's important on that sense. I think the rest of the country. And. Its
racial problems confronts a different. Set of difficulties. But the myths such just as. As persistent. For example the negroes just because they're negroes regardless of who they may be what kind of people or what kind of background they may have are going to depreciate property values are going to be bad neighbors are going to breed Crime and Delinquency and lower health guys. These are these common stereotypes I think are getting more and more prevalent in the large cities. Of course the reason is that a good many of the n migrants in addition to being negroes are people from disadvantaged backgrounds with lower educational. Achievement. And with. The. Blight. Of. Economic. Limitation and segregation reflected. In their. Behavior and in their way of living. Less attention has been paid
to the fact that a good many white people from comparably disadvantaged situations who also live in. Slum or substandard neighborhoods show the same social traits. As as the negroes do. Also of course the big thing that's overlooked. Is the individual differences among Negroes. That is that is the growth of a negro middle class which in its values its behaviors its health and education standards. Its social values. Is. Identical. With the white middle class the only thing to distinguishing. This. Growing negro middle class being the pigmentation. The fact that it's a visible minority and the fact that they continues to be discrimination in housing in employment and in other. Fields of life against. This group. We will I think be on the road to a solution to these difficulties when. The distinction between individuals begins
to be made. And. The label negro ceases to carry with it. The hard and fast assumption of a certain kind of person a certain set of traits identified with the lower social and economic scale in this country. It seems to me the distinctions between what are social and economic deficiencies among the people that's long been deprived. And those factors. That popularly popularly believed to be inborn racial traits. That distinction is not a great deal clearer. In many. Non-Southern places than it is in the south. I'm not trying to do what is. Commonly done. By some of my. Fellow southern US. And that is to say that. The problem is as bad one place or the injustice is great one place is another and therefore let's all forget about it. I don't believe this in the first place.
There is a very great difference between discrimination north and south. The difference being that in the south. In large part this discrimination is written into law. And of course this makes a tremendous amount of difference to the person discriminated against and to the discriminated. Because this puts the sanction. Of the government the sanction of the total family community. On practices that deep down most people north and south realize are not fair. Or just. In the north though it's often said that the hypocrisy of people who discriminate while they give lip service to. Equal opportunity is even worse than outright segregation. I'm not sure I agree in a sense that may. Inspire more contempt. But. At the same time I think it is much worse. To. Put the stamp of legal approval of governmental approval to embed into our legal structure. Things that
we feel are wrong. And I would my think rather see bootleg discrimination and. Then to see it so a quick legal way across the counter. But. The trend in these large cities I think should give us all pause. As to where we're going as a nation. After all in a relatively few years a majority of Negroes are going to be living outside the South. That is a majority of the American Negro population will not will be living in northern and western cities unless it seems to me we approach these problems. With all the resources of the social sciences. Research and the techniques of social welfare that we know something about rather than simply in the political forum and in the market place where. Popular. Passion and Prejudice prevail. I think we're going to be in for some new kinds of difficulties as as.
As the years go on here and as these trends continue. So in that sense to say. This is not just a southern problem but a national problem and it bids fair to become more and more a problem for the nation rather than just the south. And we might start now thinking of this not as their problem or your problem but as our problem. Our remaining Americans. In a discussion with Mr Director of the reasons that racist attitudes in the south have remained relatively stable despite changes in the south economy Mr Fleming said it's. An interesting if somewhat unhappy fact. That. The political systems in the south have haven't changed appreciably since 1900. And what this means of course is that legislatures. That were established. That is the apportionment as among the counties of the states.
They were established at a time when. An agrarian. Economy dominated when most people lived in these rural areas and when segregation of the negro was commonplace and unquestioned taken for granted practice. Since that time. Of course the location of people has changed we've had. Movement heavy movement to the cities. Industry has come in. New ways of life are grown up. But the political. Arrangements haven't followed these changes the legislature is a still constituted the way they were. The what you might call the political ethos is still the same. Now we all know what an important. Educational process the political process can be. That. It is influenced by public opinion but it in turn influences public opinion. And it has tended to express the values and the attitudes that prevail in that large
expanse in the south known as the Black Belt of the old plantation area. Which remains relatively unaffected by these economic changes. You have spoken out. And this has made the cultural lag of the Lagan. Attitudinal change and social change much. More marked than it otherwise would have been. If our political systems had changed with the tide. It's a really distressing thing that a good many people in public office who aspire to public office in the south. Have to base their hopes. For advancement and or their. Positions of power and importance. On continued suppression of the negro. Many of them having built their fortunes. And. On racial prejudice appeals to. Racial feeling. With some validity to feel that their whole future depends on maintaining the status quo
in race relations and at the very least even those who aren't quite as committed as that. I've got to learn new techniques a whole new They've got to learn new rules of the game. If we change our racial patterns of segregation becomes a thing of the past. If Negroes begin to assume their full stature as in political life as well as an economic and social life of the region. Therefore you've had a very heavy drag. In fact I think you can look at some of the states and their behavior since the Supreme Court's decision in 1054. And Trace that behavior. To the. Stimulation of the political leadership that isn't. It isn't just a question of politicians following the lead of the people or yielding to the pressures of the people. It is in many cases been the fact that the political leaders have stimulated these feelings have created the conditions to which other politicians who might not might have been a little more eager to move along with the times have had to yield
because they have become inflamed and powerful. This question of leadership then. Is a very important factor in the lag of attitudes behind economic change. It isn't just the political leaders. There are also leaders in many other areas fields of life in the south who have. Put. Artificial brakes. On the growth of new public attitudes and sentiments in the south. And this is one reason why national leadership is so important. Because. Those people in the south often defined as moderates. It is people who are at the very least. Believe in compliance with the law with the court decisions even though one may not personally agree with them. That group in terms of power and influence what they have at stake in terms of the rather serious penalties that can be visited on somebody who disagrees on so emotional an issue as these days is hardly in position to
wage a crusade or to get too. Vocal or. Outspoken or prominent without paying a very heavy price and since the supply of martyrs is I suppose at any time and place always somewhat limited. Perhaps this speaks well for the common sense of the human race. There is simply not. At this moment. Particularly in the lower solve. Enough people who can assume public roles of leadership. On the positive. Side of this question. To fail to counteract. All the leadership of that is going in the other direction and that is daily filling the air and filling the mass media filling the newspapers with. Fear provoking images myths about the negroes and born in fairy already appealing to fears of intermarriage and racial amalgamation appealing in short to those
most. Loaded emotionally loaded beliefs and. Fears and. Images. Within people's. Hearts and Minds. Do you find your organization the Southern Regional Council. Mr. Fleming being ever compared with the. National association with Advancement of Colored People. Yes to some extent in the sense that. One of the. Myths of our time is that all of these changes. Are the result of. One pressure. That is that the NAACP. Because the NAACP is pictured in this folklore. As an organization that for. NY they and self-interested purposes is quote agitating and quote. These changes in Southern life. In fact of course the NAACP is is a kind of inevitable expression
of what is working and starring among Negroes themselves and changing their self-image a new determination to achieve the same rights as other citizens. Anyone who is knowledgeable at all and opens his eyes and his ears to the Negro community in the south can sense these basic changes working in the Negro population as the part that population rises and both economic and political importance. So that. It is only natural I suppose that an organization like ours which does have a position in favor of compliance with these various court decisions we believe that the changes. That are underway in our racial patterns toward a more democratic and equalitarian pattern are sound ones will. Benefit the whole South. It's only natural I suppose that we would be from by some people. Identified with the NAACP which is serves as a kind of symbol of all of the pressure on the south. Actually
the Southern Regional Council is a quite different organization in the sense that it is purely Southern. We do not engage in litigation or legislative activity. And. We seek to express. The. What we conceive to be the best in conscience and purpose among southerners of both races. Rather than ours is not a pressure group. We see our role as one of demonstrating that southerners can work together. As equals and harmoniously across racial lines toward common purposes and that there are southerners who see the necessity of these vast changes that are coming pressing in on the south and would like to help make that transition as smooth and as constructive. And as beneficial to the general welfare as possible. What do you feel the future. Holds in store for the South in
terms of. The racial patterns. Used to foresee any. Continued change do you think a plateau is going to be reached. Do you think there's. Inevitable violence and what what are your feelings in this. Direction. Well I'm slow to make predictions these days I think the events of the last few years if they've demonstrated anything. Have demonstrated that. Developments in this. Very emotional and. Volatile field. Are pretty unpredictable. It's a little hard to know just what will happen. I think in the long run. I hope I'm correct in this that we are going to modify. Our legal systems. And to well in general to bring them into compliance with what this Supreme Court and the lesser federal courts have been ruling in recent years I think that is almost inevitable. The alternatives
to it seem to me by anybody's standards intolerable. But a lot depends who you see on two things. A lot depends on the determination and persistence and leadership. The Negro's display for example in asserting their. Newly won rights. That's the steam in the boiler. Without that nothing moves. And the degree of change the degree of inevitability in a sense depends entirely on. That factor. By extension it also depends on the performance of the federal government. The codes and the executive branch and up holding the courts and through its administrative machinery making it plain that. Negroes. Have to be treated as equal citizens. Now these imponderables in the sense that I can say with assurance what. Negroes in general are going to do what the federal government is going to do. But present
indications I think because of that that these patches are going to continue. And in that sense the inevitability. Will be kept up. And the hard doctrine of choice as well can be expected to operate. Of course there are also moral. Factors working in the situation the church is showing increasingly their concern their feeling that they must bring to bear religious values as in this whole field and that can't be written off at all. So what is going to happen in the long run I I would be willing to venture the prediction that we are going to have desegregation and that gradually this will be translated into. A different kind of relationships between the races. Thank you Mr. Fleming. You have been listening to comments on the minority. I heard today was Mr. Harold Fleming executive director of the Southern Regional Council when I want you to join us again next week when our guest will be the Reverend William Borders pastor of the Street Baptist Church
- Comment on a minority
- Harold C. Fleming
- Producing Organization
- Purdue University
- WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- This program features Harold C. Fleming discussing issues of discrimination against African Americans in the United States.
- This series explores minority issues in the United States in the mid-20th century.
- Social Issues
- Media type
Guest: Fleming, Harold C.
Interviewer: Thompson, Ben
Producer: Richter, E.W.
Producing Organization: Purdue University
Producing Organization: WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 60-51-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Comment on a minority; Harold C. Fleming,” 1960-10-27, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 18, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-tq5rd45x.
- MLA: “Comment on a minority; Harold C. Fleming.” 1960-10-27. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 18, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-tq5rd45x>.
- APA: Comment on a minority; Harold C. Fleming. 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-tq5rd45x