Comment on a minority; Edward Howden
Among the larger groups those from Japan from China and most recently of course in terms of large scale migration and Negro Americans from the south. The police you hear earlier migration would crowd company formerly director and even carry to school councils and unit courage but under the present executive director of the U.S. Consumer Commission on employment opportunity force and courage in today's comments on minority those Mr Howden discusses this omission of the negro in the same place as gray area with particular emphasis on housing or albums as Disney's comments are part of a longer interview recorded in history how he jams his caucus I made my own producers made a point ration of California took place in World War 2 rather than in World War 1 and it's in that connection that the San Francisco Bay area. Experienced its first really large scale in migration of Negro Americans roughly coinciding with World War Two and of course a migration
continuing sense. We should add of course that this migration. Is not only of Negro Americans but of white Americans from all parts of the country as well. And we might recall that back in the 30s there had been very substantial migrations to California of so-called dustbowl white Americans from down in the border south states so that this is this this western seaboard seems to be still a target for substantial migration. Well to give us an idea perhaps of the. Relative importance of Negro and migration here. Could you tell us approximately what percentage of the population in the Bay Area or in San Francisco whichever figure you happen to have. Was negro prior to 1940. And what percentage is Negro at this point. Taking San Francisco proper The percentage of Negro population prior to
1040 was was well under 1 percent. In fact the 1940 census revealed approximately forty two hundred negroes in all of San Francisco out of a total population of about three quarters of a million in one thousand fifty the Negro population had reached about forty three thousand. In San Francisco proper. Today the estimates range between 50 and 60000. This means that along with Chinese-American Japanese-American and other so-called nonwhite groups in the population that San Francisco's total so-called nonwhite population is about a tenth of the city as a whole our total population today is about 850 to 900000 in the city proper. Now the San Francisco Oakland Bay Area the metropolitan region which variously is defined as six counties or nine counties depending on how far you reach total population there is about 3 million. And I think about the same nonwhite population ratios
obtain. Well here we have a situation in San Francisco and according to what I heard in Los Angeles as well where the. Numbers of negroes in the area have swelled tremendously over the last 20 years that 20 years ago there was no such thing as quote a race problem and quote whereas now there is has been this tremendous migration carrying with it I assume a number of problems. Would you like to define these problems. Let me go back one step first if I may I would disagree. As to whether there was a race problem before I think. The matter of size of population. Size of migration and so on does not really mean that qualitatively The problem is too much different really. Contributes it really means merely that this is more
newsworthy that it comes to public attention that the through the sheer magnitude of one's awareness of a definably or apparently different group. That some problems arise in the community. Perhaps I should qualify that a little bit further. It is true that qualitatively sometimes tensions difficulties between groups can become more intense as numbers increase because fears of some groups have become more intense and so on in that sense there is a relation between quality and quantity. But even the very small negro groups are populations in the San Francisco Bay area prior to World War 2. Experienced discriminatory treatment the question was whether that treatment was as it was something that people. Felt they had to adjust to and had to accept in those years past. Where expectations as to how Americans are to be treated today have changed somewhat.
It's been my understanding that the people of San Francisco and the Bay Area consider themselves shall we say more progressive than people in other parts of the country as that's been reflected at all in the position of a minority personality. And San Francisco is the Negro is a better off in San Francisco than he would be in other areas. Well of course there are lots of other areas I have heard negro friends say in recent years here that San Francisco and New York perhaps even more San Francisco is a place in which the atmosphere is pretty good. I had Miss fear as I suppose sufficiently undefinable that it's a pretty safe statement to make but I think it does have some meaning. I think that. Attitudes as to the way people regard each other let's say in public places on buses and restaurants and hotels and so on the
slightly intangible sense of human relationships as commonly observable in everyday life is one of a reasonable absence of tension reasonable presence of fairly decent relationships. Now this certainly on the affirmative and positive side and not as something to be terribly proud of but as something which should of course be be the normal in any city. Now this is not to say however that when you get down to the brass tacks of problems of employment opportunity. Of what happens in private housing neighborhoods in new housing tracts in the financing or are attempting to arrange financing of a home. To say that the atmosphere is good unfortunately does not mean that practices in matters such as employment and housing are all straightened out and are equally good.
Would you care to list for us. Perhaps in order of priority the problems and race relations that exists in this area. Well for many years and still today employment and housing are at the top and I really wouldn't want to say which is the more serious or more important it really wouldn't mean very much because one could spend several hours analyzing and describing the range of issues and problems remaining in employment on the one hand and in housing on the other. These have long been the focus of I think most agencies working in race relations these two areas. I suppose basically on the theory that when. Inequalities are eventually erased in these two fields and when people can.
Associate with each other more or less normally and have equal opportunity in these matters. That a good deal of the so-called prejudice a good deal of the tensions and worries and fears that the dominant white groups and in our citizenry seem to feel about minority groups that these will gradually dissipate gradually go away. Many of these fears have to do with specific things such as what's going to happen to my property values of a Negro family moves in down the street and so on while when a family has moved in. And when people have acted sensibly and haven't allowed themselves to be panicked by some unscrupulous broker seeking only commissions and all the multiplication and multiplication of them. Then one realizes that there wasn't so much to be afraid of in the first place. When the kids get along wonderfully well and and this family turns out to be
really quite a fine group of people after all and and so on. One more erase share of unwarranted fears and anxieties it seems to me have has taken place and in a sense working on discrimination is also working on prejudice. Very often I think people get a little confused as to the relation between discrimination and fail to distinguish between the overt acts of discrimination in which many people are caught up without particularly being prejudiced individuals. And I think to just to to assume uncritically that all discrimination is the product of prejudice is it is so badly to miscalculate the nature of the problem that people sometimes feel very pessimistic about the ways of getting solutions. And actually many substantial changes in overcoming discriminatory practices have occurred in this country under the pressure of law under the pressure of gradually changing practice in a given industry in a given
economic sphere in in social life generally and so on. What are the biggest stumbling blocks and you cheated in the achievement of equal housing opportunities for minority groups in the Negro in particular. Well. I think we can say that there are certain rather institutionalized practices in the housing industry and here we're speaking of the private housing industry government and government connected. Housing having been largely straightened out in this matter up to this point. But there are certain institutionalized practices in private housing which still constitute big barriers these in in quick general summary form are as follows. The practices of most real estate brokers. These practices consisting. Mainly of either refusing or
certainly heavily discouraging. The sale of homes to otherwise qualified buyers. Who are nonwhite. And who are attempting to buy a home in a neighborhood that is still all white. Now as a generalization and fortunately there are some exceptions. Real estate brokers certainly in the San Francisco Bay area certainly in California generally and I guess in much of the rest of the nation. Are reluctant or outright unwilling and refusing to sell in a block which is still white to a nonwhite family. Now there is some difference in San Francisco proper perhaps in other parts of the Bay Area as between Negro and Oriental buyers in this respect not a not a real difference I mean but in the way they are treated by real estate brokers. The resistance is much heavier. Still today two negroes.
And. Oriental families may buy with reasonable freedom. In most neighborhoods in San Francisco today. There may be exceptions or maybe some sellers who will not do this but it is hardly a matter of note. And the longer you stay any longer the syndicate and the changing pattern. Definitely I would say that 10 15 and certainly 20 years ago this was phatic only not the case in fact the resistance to a Chinese American or Japanese American family coming into an all Caucasian neighborhood was just as strong or perhaps even stronger than today. The resistance against Negro families coming in so this certainly does indicate that Caucasians can get adjusted to somewhat differing practices and that real estate brokers can get adjusted to somewhat differing practices some of the same brokers who 15 years ago were saying it will ruin the neighborhood.
This Chinese-American family comes in here today saying the same thing about Negroes but are selling quite freely to Chinese. Now these are I'm not stating. Facts or I'm not stating what I believe to be the true case as to what will happen and neighborhoods I'm merely stating what the practices are in this case of real estate brokers. A second kind of barrier of course has to do with what individual sellers will do. Perhaps I should have mentioned this first. Most real estate brokers when you question them about their practices will say we don't decide this this is entirely up to the seller of a home whether he be a home builder or a homeowner who is reselling his home. This of course does apply to some individual sellers under pressure from neighbors on your figures or for outright prejudicial reasons will refuse to sell to non-whites and will so instruct their brokers.
The quarrel of many of us working in intergroup relations the quarrel with the real estate brokers is that they tend to support this practice and tend to encourage it. Generally speaking if a seller doesn't raise the question they may raise it for him. And there is we're afraid in many cases a kind of a of an a coming between the seller and the buyer with some discriminatory ideas and that's coming between happens unfortunately often on the part of the broker. Now another big area of. Resistance or kind of barrier has to do with home financing. Generally speaking the nonwhite has a lot more trouble getting a good loan on the home he wants to buy. Even despite his financial qualifications despite his educational cultural status despite his established position in the community he may have great trouble getting conventional financing or getting
FHA type financing which means on better terms and therefore at a lower cost to him over a long period or which actually might make the difference between his being able to buy the home or not. Because on the size of the loan you can get when you buy a home of course. May determine whether you can get it at all. If you're down if you have about the average amount of down payment that the next guy happens to have and therefore you need a loan of a certain size if you're going to make a purchase. If you can't get that sized loan. If the bank will offer you a loan but only half that size then it may mean that you just can't buy period. So financing is still a very serious problem. The other sort of problem has to do with the practices of large tract builders home builders. Generally speaking and. Unfortunately with notable exceptions such as Mr Eichler with whom I understand you you are having some conversations while in this area with an exception or two
like that homebuilders generally are not yet selling to Negro families. Some in this area are selling to Oriental families but not to negroes. And this is the homebuilders own decision as to what is in his best business interest. Rightly or wrongly conceived and this is still the kind of race barrier that he throws up. Now these are among the main barriers yet remaining as we see it in the private housing field with respect to minority group families seeking decent homes and safe neighborhoods. What is the housing picture of a minority groups here. Again with specific reference to the negro It's as in many aspects of race relations it's a mixed up picture without any particularly rational or clear or consistent patterns. By that I mean there is a good deal of what you might call normal scatter or distribution of nonwhite families not only in
around different districts of San Francisco but in the San Francisco Bay area generally communities of Oakland Berkeley Orange County down the peninsula San Mateo Alto and so on. There's a lot of integration in neighborhoods in other words racial integration. And this it seems to us makes it all the more ironic that there are still the hold out areas that there are still. Other districts in which brokers will resist selling homes in which financing is particularly difficult and so on. I think it's fairly clear that those who are still battling for housing segregation are fighting a losing battle I don't think there's any serious question about that either locally or nationally. If this is the case one may ask what is the sense in. Engendering betterness engendering tensions that result when you continue to discriminate against people when they know what their rights are and
when the trend of history is quite clear on this matter. Why is such a delaying action fought. Well as really as sort of a rhetorical question I I don't know. It's awfully hard except perhaps in terms of the sheer inertia of human institutions that the housing industry in this case as a human institution is hanging on to old practices long past the time when it has been clearly demonstrated. That people can get along perfectly well together and that can be sustained property or otherwise and so on without. These discriminatory practices. Well in other parts of the country as Negro populations in urban areas grow. Originally there was perhaps just one neighborhood to which negroes were restricted Well these neighborhoods finally burst from the seaman's and well-to-do Negroes for example might take over a better area so that you wound up with pockets
of Negro housing as this pocket's system working here as well. Let's not say as well. Well I mean we're not as well I meant also. I understand there is some of that practice I could show you one block in San Francisco of quite expensive homes which over just about the last four or five years has become very substantially Negro in occupancy and just that one block. This is no accident. What happens is not that the Negro families seek to establish a pattern of that sort. Not that they wish to live all together in one block more or less of an to themselves but that when one sale has taken place then according to this curious real estate code the block is open. And then some brokers I'm not saying that all do this by any means but some will go in and try to
promote more sales to negroes in that one block or maybe. A couple of blocks or what have U.S. and hence the pocket develops because you have a backlog of Negro families reasonably good economic status who want a decent home and they want it now they don't want a war they don't need it 10 years from now nearly so badly they want it now while their children are young and while they have a safe and attractive neighborhood means a great deal to them. So if they are barred elsewhere and if suddenly that block becomes open under these curious real estate codes then even though they may not like it particularly they may not like all of its racial implications and so on and segregation implications. They may reluctantly make that kind of choice now we have a few such pockets but fortunately not too many. There are lots and lots of situations general districts of San Francisco and of Oakland where you have one or maybe two negro or adult families have been some studies of these neighborhoods as to neighborhood reaction on the part of the whites and on the whole it's been a very favorable situation.
What do you have anything else you want to say about this housing situation. QUESTION Well at the at the level of generalization I think that does it except perhaps to touch quickly on the property value question which is one that I guess disturbs people all around the country. We happen to have right here in the Bay Area Two men who one in particular who has done I think the most comprehensive and definitive studies of what actually happens to resale values of single family residences when whites come into a neighborhood the most comprehensive such study you've done anywhere in the country. Dr. Luigi Laurenti. Who. In the course of his work for his doctorate in economics at the University of California and partly in connection with his work with the Commission on race and housing whose studies are to be out very shortly now. Dr. Tiller already studied a number of neighborhoods in San Francisco in Oakland and then in order not to be limited just to this region of the country in Philadelphia
in which some degree either very heavy or very light but some degree of nonwhite movin had taken place. What then happened after this move in to the actual prices at which properties single family dwelling was sold very scientifically compared to these. Neighborhoods that were partially racially mixed with comparable neighborhoods physically comparable neighborhoods which were still all white and this is the basic pattern of a study comparing the price behavior you see in the racially mixed areas with that of comparable housing in the still all white neighborhoods and Iranis findings I can take time to detail are that price is not adversely affected in the great majority of cases in something over 85 percent. As I recall of all the
transactions which he studied in all of these different areas. There was either no adverse effect. Or there was actually a a higher price resulting in the racially mixed neighborhood than in the unmixed. Now they the remaining problem you might say and the thing that people tend to worry about most perhaps. Is whether a neighborhood is going to tend to go all minority once it starts is this a necessary inevitable consequence of the beginning of racial integration in a neighborhood. Does one Negro family mean at five years or six years or eight years from now. It's going to be an all negro neighborhood. I point out that this is not in the hands of Negro families or negro communities so-called. The decision as to what happens here is it is primarily in the hands of the housing industry and of homeowners themselves. If they elect a number of them to
panic and unload their properties quickly they can very quickly bring about a nonwhite neighborhood. If they like their homes in their neighborhood its location its physical condition and so on. And if they are not prejudiced and racist Glee minded individuals. They might just get together and decide to stay put. Welcome the negro neighbor or neighbors who come along in the normal course of events but not act with an abnormal economic or racial motivation. And if they resist what tendencies there may be on the part of White real estate men and other elements in the housing industry to begin to funnel. Negro business just into that neighborhood and into a few others then this won't happen. This is a choice that is in the hands of sensually of white people not negroes. Let's leave the matter of housing and turn to the matter of employment in the Bay region. California doesn't yet have as do many other states. A state wide Fair Employment Practices Act. Only San Francisco and down at the lower end of the Central Valley
the city of Bakersfield have so far unacted such legislation. This means I am afraid that the that California is slipping behind the general trend of many other northern and western states at any rate toward a kind of a normal employment integration where people are really taken on merit. Washington Oregon on the Pacific Coast New Mexico and Colorado elsewhere in the West have had fair employment statutes for some time and of course it's an old story and in on the East Coast New York and many other states. In San Francisco we are very happy that we have the opportunity to show what can be accomplished under such legislation. One of the. It seems to me one of the. Basic long term values of fair employment legislation. Is that it makes it easier for the fair minded employer.
Or they reverting to our earlier terminology the non prejudiced individual among employers. To begin to have his practice conform to his private views. To feel freer. To hire people according to performance abilities and so on as he sees it in competition with other employers and so on. Another basic value as I see it and a very very great need. I think all across our country today. Is to. Continue to provide incentives for all you and particularly for minority group you. To. Make the extra effort to get the training that they need as individuals in order to be able to qualify for technical and skilled and professional jobs in our society in the future. In other words in the past the pattern has been that a nonwhite had difficulty in securing higher level jobs and as a consequence the youngster asked himself the question what's the
use of training for the vicious circle of discrimination in employment. Defeatism of attitude on the part of parents and youth and so on is something that's going to take a long time to crack into. And I don't see fair employment legislation as a panacea by any means I think it's simply one of the indispensable instruments that any up to date community or state auto equip itself with in order to help do this job. Thank you Mr Edward Houghton. You have been listening to comments on a minority presenting today Mr. Edward Houghton executive director of the San Francisco commission on equal employment opportunities. His comments were taken from a longer interview recorded in San Francisco by E.W. Richter in connection with the last US citizen a series of programme produced underground in aid from the National Educational Television and Radio center. Our guest next week Mr. John Burroughs executive secretary of the county of Los Angeles Committee on Human Relations.
- Comment on a minority
- Edward Howden
- Producing Organization
- Purdue University
- WBAA (Radio station : West Lafayette, Ind.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- This program features an interview with Edward Howden, focusing on the position of African Americans in the San Francisco area.
- This series explores minority issues in the United States in the mid-20th century.
- Social Issues
- Media type
Guest: Howden, Edward
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: 60-51-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- MLA: “Comment on a minority; Edward Howden.” 1960-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 14, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-x34mr118>.
- APA: Comment on a minority; Edward Howden. 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-x34mr118