Gateway to ideas; 15; Can Attitudes be Legislated
Gateway to ideas. I am a. Gateway to ideas. A new series of conversations in which ideas are discussed in relation to reading. Today's programme can attitudes be legislated is moderated by the well-known author Leo Roston. Our subject is Kim attitudes be legislated. Our guests are Dr. Howard Zinn associate professor in the Department of Government at Boston University and author of the Southern mystique. And Dr. Ernest vend then Haag sociologist and a cycle analyst author of passion and social constraint and co-author of the fabric of society. I don't suppose
that any subject sounds as innocent as this one. I don't suppose that any word is quite as innocent as the word attitudes but it's my guess that we know very very little about how attitudes are formed. What goes into their change and how they can be changed so I for one will find this discussion extremely interesting. Let's start with the direct question to you doctors and do you think that attitudes can be legislated. Now let me speak of a specific attitude. And that is the attitude that Americans have towards the negro. And I think I would argue that this attitude and specifically the attitude of prejudiced towards people of color. It cannot be changed by legislation alone. I think that attitudes are changed by the environmental
situation. The people change their attitudes when they see different things about them and when they live in different ways and I think that laws help to change the way people behave. And when you change people's behavior you begin to change the way they think. Their attitude you mean they change their attitude after they have acted in the context exactly what about you Dr. Van Den Haag do you think that attitudes can be legislated or changed through legislation. Well I'd like to start by dividing attitudes into partial and gentle ones. I do not sing that general attitudes can be changed at all by legislation. I lived for more than 10 years and was Houdini's Italy. And at that time was a leniency a holy tie and garment made a very strong effort to change the tire you know. How did it all kinds of sinks generally towards life I would say. They wanted the Titans to become heroic
self-sacrificing non indulgent. And in fact the president aggressive pretty much Germans and so on. All over Italy he plastered a puppet mottos loss of everything. It didn't have any effect whatsoever and I think that the people who think that the Soviet government has succeeded in changing Russian attitudes very much in this respect of it's all wrong so I believe that total attitude is unlikely to be changed by governmental action including law. Now if we speak of partial attitudes and I think those are the ones that doctors in had in mind early to start a particular group there. I would also not fully agree with him if the east if I have understood him correctly I would say this that if a majority holds and I did cute which in my knowledge he does not hold. Zen is a law can probably influence is a
minority to some extent that is a law cannot import use but it can sort of speak leet and it can cause as all those who might not follow to follow to a great extent and there might I hope otherwise but I won't if you'll forgive me. Just going one step further resists it quiets. And that's a law be supported on the whole by the majority of the people in the place in which it is to be applied. Otherwise we would have the experience that we had seen poorly Bishan in the United States which was an attempt to legislate on a particular attitude a specific one towards alcohol and not supported perhaps by majority but opposed by a strong enough minority to Nonny fi's effect of the law. And you might draw a lesson about says this We got two negroes. May I ask a question you said that in the Salinas Italy the efforts of the government to change the
attitudes of the Italians really he was trying to change their character structure which is much harder one is sometime. Because it was as you as you were saying that the government propaganda had no effect whatsoever. But how does one know that that is in the absence of that propaganda. What would have happened did the propaganda have a very small effect or a negligible effect certainly some people must have been encouraged to act or think a little differently from the way in which they would have had the propaganda not been going solo. If so I never meddles people in my 10 years actually. That is I just don't think that even attitude is fundamental. Who did as you say in the kirk to end traditions of people then. I think governmental action cannot change now as doctors inserted if the total environment changes in about the ideal way. As it
is in law then the law itself may be run Nobbs also forces that contribution to a change but the law alone cannot do it. Yes but doctors in you would say that the fact that the federal government and the Supreme Court have taken the position they have within the last two or three years visa vi the rights of negroes in the south. Has and must have some effect upon the attitudes of Southerners to Negroes would you spell that out. Well this is not just a theoretical statement. I lived for seven years in Atlanta Georgia. I just moved out of Georgia recently. I lived there at that particular time when the laws were changing. When the Supreme Court decisions were coming off the bench virtually every week and I could watch the changes in Atlanta among white southerners towards the negro. How so could you specify. Well I could see it
in the children who began to go to school with Negro children even though very very small number of Negro kids in Atlanta. I began attending school in 161. But even with that by the end of the year by the end of an academic year white children who had been distant through the year came over to a negro girl who was graduating and signed in her autograph book the most remarkable and the most touching demonstrations of the fact that their attitude to change across the year. And you think the change was the result of having merely been exposed to Negro children for a long time. I think contact is the crucial thing about let's segregate the contract in a special meaning now from the actual legislation. Without that contract if a law were passed saying that it is wrong to feel this way or that way do you think that would be very effective in it's in itself. No you don't think I don't think if I was leaving the law alone
has a certain value in reinforcing those who already believe the position and perhaps influencing those over say are borderline believers in one thing a certain influence yes on borderline believers yes. I think for instance Ralph McGill. Took advantage of the fact that the Supreme Court made a decision in 1054 to begin making the point in a stronger way than he had ever dared to make it before that. Now this is the law of the land. And I think he had an effect on your people. I want wonder for me. There are two things I would like to say here. I do since it's a law had in effect but I'm not convinced that it had effect to sink it head. It probably led to polo he's ation Zed is is also. Where as you see on the borderline no longer could stay neutral. They had to decide one way it was yours or those who were one became more one
he's also became more easy as it were. But I do not see that it led those who dare see anti Neagle whatever that may mean to become a pony girl. And it's also where anti segregation became if anything more radical in my experience not let me add. As for the point you make about. Growing contact again I believe this is a very unconvincing point I think. Contact is required for your liking or disliking a person but it can lead to disliking certainly is borne out by the fact that married couples usually are supposed to have some sort of intimate contact with each other or may be said to have liked each other before they got married and has little contact presumably. And after they're married for 10 years they divorce and it turns out I've hated each other all along and the more they came
to know you as a more contact their heads hurt more they hated each other not let me know in social terms it is a very known fact that anti-Semitism does not and has not diminished. So contact this Jews says the Germans had quite a contact as Jews there was no suggestion of Jews and so on NZ total effect was what we all know it was now there were all kinds of circumstances I don't wish to say that contact was the cause. Wish to see the change in Germany Bartlett recently also not all but had me give you another instance some hundreds of years ago about 100000 elderly woman more than a hundred thousand burned in Germany being accused by friends and neighbors who had intimate contact with them all their lives more intimate than you have these days in villages and so on of being witches and of having been seen doing all
kinds of fantastic sinks or a bitch who demonstrates and using demonstrated contact alone is not helpful. The mind filters contact if you have a friendly attitude to reinforce a set contact if you have an unfriendly attitude just as well reinforces it. Well Dr. Vanden hard let me explain the point about contact you mentioned a married couple and you mention the fact that sometimes contact reagent agonising rather than friendship. What happens with contact it that you get to know somebody. And when you get to know somebody you get to know their good points their bad points of their bad points are sufficiently strong enough. Your attitude towards it may change but the point about contact in an interracial setting is this that whatever you get to know about a negro if you are white and if you are going to have intimate unequal contact with him. You know about him as a human being. You begin to understand that whatever faults or whatever good qualities he has he has as a human
being you begin to divorce color from those qualities this is the crucial thing about what I did to Jews and Germany. Well I'm not sure that you describe the situation in Germany correctly that is I'm not sure about the amount of contact that you know not the quality of an honest non-Jewish Germans but I was certainly much less. Anti-Semitism is who are Germany at the time. They went to school with non-Jewish Germans until Hitler that is then there is one tiny little wisdom in cells there. I should think on the whole the conditions for what you may call interracial Amity were considerably more favorable than now in this house with regard to whites and Nichols. Change the legal situation clearly did ultimately result the law and the force of law have an effect on the way. Didn't say only what about you. I think he did it only because he felt and quite correctly that this would make him popular but it would also give him a legal
cloak for what he was doing certainly in Germany the fact that it was a law was more important than in Italy of a lower and Italy's along. I have had to because he told united to Toad's was a friendly but a German How did you begin this was unfriendly even if was a lot drier last night so that's what I'm sure that the law gave a cache or a sanction to it it wouldn't otherwise have had no ties us back to the problem about legalising or rather legislating attitudes it isn't necessarily so that a law will change an attitude but that a law can then give whatever attitudes exist a stronger moral support for argument if you want as in the case of Ralph McGill who says we now have the law of the land it's no longer a matter of personal preference and it must are many other people in communities in the south with a feeling that there is a larger identity to which they now must commit themselves and that you can say anything if anything they may be are less
vocal than they once were about their attitudes which now become caste and Mr. McGuinness argument seems a very curious one because you would then have expected him to say before the law now is that we all should be segregated for me. The length of his life and how often and no his name was America not only married one of the 14th Amendment as you versus Ferguson Pontius amendment was interpreted to Hunter Brown vs. Board of Education and was so long ago said that and it's curious in that Mr. McGill when the loss of land is what he wants it to well I'm like a more sour saying it cannot because it's really out of line and how it let me make a distinction between muscling use Italy in which you lived in the South in which I lived and there was I think that the function of the law in changing people's attitudes has a good deal to do with whatever fundamental feelings people have initially in whatever basic feelings we have
as human beings about other people. What I mean is I believe that it is. There's a certain residual feeling in the white southerner of decency and what when you change the law and when you change the law to permit whites and Negros to go to the same places in the same schools and so on you will appeal to that fundamental grain of decency in a way it's not to say that he responds to it. Doctor when you say the Southerner I must ask you to break that get a chord because yes I sometimes find it hard to locate the residues of decency in people who bomb little children exactly and shoot them in the back and beat up kids mercilessly so surely their residue their residue is very similar I agree but remember I don't know it seems to us and you have a serious of here and accusing the president as a whole or all of us a one. If you all sounded deadly and I want to give you a chance to know I want to hear that you
want to use it. I wanted Dr Zen to break down that you had a guy called a Southerner and I'm quite sure that most Southerners are not swine and not a madman and not sad as sad as these other people clearly are. You mentioned my book the southern mystique and the reason I wrote it was that I felt that most Northerners had a very peculiar conception of what the white southerner was like and most of them saw him in terms of the headlines of shootings of beatings of Ku Klux Klan and what I discovered living in the south was that most white Southerners are not extreme types they are you might say passive segregationists or they believe in segregation in a passive way they won't commit violence to uphold it. And this means therefore that they are not at the extremes they are not polarized. They stand somewhere in the middle ready to change and when you change the law then you give them an opportunity to move across that line which for them for most white southerners is not an insuperable barrier.
Well I was. Ready to leave is what you said before but now I believe I can disagree again. I certainly do think said referring to what you mentioned before doctors and I certainly do agree that if there is a general attitude to the law merely to speak brings out then the law can be helpful but you mentioned two sings here first you said the law now permits desegregation. It does and if that's all the law would do it would be very much in favor of it. Unfortunately the law does something more it also compels congregation we have now instituted compulsory togetherness in the cells and what you mean schools yes. What I do and what I worry about is whether Zad will have the beneficial effects that open court although it was not explicit on it sought it would let me give you two
may I. Yes just as a point also. You see I do think that it is of course merely a matter of common decency not to murder people and not to move to bomb churches I would not saying it is a matter of decency do fever or not fever can cause compulsory congregation. I think you can be a perfectly decent person. An easy aside you don't think it's a matter of common decency to allow anyone into a public school regardless of their color. No use you have for instance public schools where only girls are allowed and as whom the boys are allowed in still others will only exist because I don't like you and as long as it is a choice I think I made clear I think Dr. Landau it means keeping the choices open but you force people to go somewhere where I really don't want course if I say what I mean but let's not spend too much time on that because I want to get back to the larger question of the attitudes. I'm struck by the fact that within the last 20 years in America
more and more southerners have looked into their own hearts and have written books about the moral dilemma of the decent Southerner who as a child is exposed to a kind of. Prejudice or attitude which you can't entirely cope and I'm thinking not only of the work of someone like William Faulkner whose attitude on this confuses many northerners because what he's really contending with is so complicated are of Lily and Smith's work but I'm thinking of a quite a lovely book like To Kill a Mockingbird in which you get these extraordinarily rich strains of attitude and partly because it's told from the child's point of view. Now let me ask you in the south how does a book like To Kill a Mockingbird get received were you there when it came out of the movie came out. Well what's the reaction to it. Well one of them one of wonder and I think the movies are a marvelous thing because the white Southerner can sit
in the movie house in the darkness and alone and in a position where nobody else can observe his feelings and the expressions of reaction I heard from White Southerners was such a favorable one such a warm one towards us. Picture towards the book that I feel this reinforce the feeling I had that all the white Southern needs is for a new climate to be created around him and is reinforced by as you say better self. Yes I want to look good today and I read this book so you didn't see the movie and I think the book was quite nice in its in its way but let me point out the point of the book was Zed decency is required whatevers a social order and that a man should not be unjustly condemned simply because he is black skinned and that it is a proper and decent thing to do for bad men to
defend him if he is unjustly accused. This is not the same as saying that there should be desegregation or anything like that. This is saying that whatever solutions are there should be decency and I think it would be hard to be against. This is a very powerful position incidentally precisely because it chooses to ignore the question of segregation but it does force the question back on the Anglo-Saxon conception of fair play of the rights of a person and the rights of an accused man and the duty of the lawyer. There it is his duty whatever he may feel like incidentally not too long ago the late professor at Mint.com wrote a book with a title that seems to fit him. He wrote a book called The moral decision right and wrong in the light of American law. Dr. Bennett how you and I were talking about that would you mind repeating your comments. You know I've not repeated too often for the simple reason that I find it hard to support it not because the book as well as
I should to do so I didn't think too highly of the book to express myself more moderate leader than I did. Off the record particularly in comparisons to Kant's first book the sense of injustice vs heart was very good. This seemed to me an elaboration and perversion to some extent and sort of thing that led nowhere but I would be put now to put this exactly with him because I don't recall the book so I retain the impression I had a little difficulty in a discussion between Dr. Vanden hard and me on this question and that is I find suddenly that he really doesn't want to change people's attitudes on the race question in so far as the equal access of Negroes to public schools and perhaps other public facilities. So here we start that's an interesting question of the basic disagreement let me ask you. But is it a question because you know if it you put it as a question the answer to it is no you don't
misunderstand me oh no I don't really don't want to but not by that way. That's right I think by the means I made you think it would be that is not by compulsion what means do you suggest. Well you see let me put it this way in my opinion the attitude of the cells the whole question of segregation was in the process of being changed and would be necessarily changed in environmental change other then compulsory law namely industrialization. Let me very slow process. Yes and I don't think going to be a very slow promo it's not that I'm dealing I recognize that it cannot be done otherwise but it's been done. No it is not going to be effective. It was not it is not well you have to live in the south and see it operating. I have been in this house quite a number but you see whites and it grows and you see the changes in just a few weeks ago 200 young white Southern College students gathered in an assembly hall to form a new civil rights organization in the south. These are young white Southern five years ago. No it wouldn't
have. I was not going to lie not and find out to you that it has happened in the past and has been ineffective. I think what it will be if we call the law wasn't enforced. No doubt that's why it was a you know what I think you will not find a law in fact what it will lead to is that as a law as I would like to see enforced laws against murder for instance will not be enforced as a result of this as it where the local populations will get back on the imposition of federal power by not doing what they decently might have done in the past. I think the situation is likely to get worse. Let me put it let me I just want to explain my previous point I am in favor as you were making in Galatians of people to each as a personal individual judgments. Associating was also. I want to not this also I don't want to. I am in favor of trying to avoid stereotypes and prejudices. So the only question that divides us
is whether as you feel the present legislation imposed by the super court is useful along those lines or whether it is due to mantle. Now you say correctly I think said to process by means of which I hope to achieve the result we both desire is a lengthy one it is. I do not think there are any shortcuts and I can tell you I think that the law is not a shortcut but may lead tad. What you and I desire what we haven't seen it thus far because we've seen remarkable changes in a short period of time in the south and in just seven years a little outre. I saw a social transformation in the city with the beginnings of one. And even Mississippi is changing now. The little Negro kids going to school in Biloxi Mississippi were white kids. This would have been delayed for 50 years if we had followed your advice. If the Supreme Court had only made its decision if the law had not been granted some for I
don't think it matters but on the other hand you might have noticed it before the law. These laws were passed for in contrast to say the pre-war period where no lynchings was not due to any legislative change. It was simply to social and environmental change that I speak of. Now just who was the last. Coming out now is that your point dontcha know if they had disappeared without law or contrary to what one might have expected from us you know what I'm trying to do you think it's a very yes but a number of changes along the lines that you're speaking of have occurred as outlaw. So my idea that these changes would have and would occur and possibly more rapidly and more comprehensively and base out undesirable Globex with Outlaw is not wholly unsupported. But you seem to be willing to compel Negro children to go to segregated schools. So you talk about could I don't want a compulsion.
Then you're just want to tell it either way. I say what I believe you have quoted and has first indirect results and secondly long range results which get lost sight of our time alas is coming to an end. We've been talking about attitudes segregation legislation and the complexity of events which may or may not change people's feelings. This is Leo Roston thank you for listening and we hope you'll be with us again. You've been listening to gateway to ideas a new series of conversations in which ideas are discussed in relation to reading today's program. Can attitudes be legislated as presented. Dr. Edward fundin hogged sociologist and psychoanalyst and Dr. Howard Zinn associate professor of Government at Boston University. The moderator was Leo Ruston author and special advisor to the editors of Look magazine a list of the books mentioned in the discussion has been prepared.
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