APRIL 1, 1946
NEW YORK, Sunday—At my last lecture, in Omaha, Nebraska, a question was asked me which I have been thinking about a great deal ever since. It ran about like this: "Do you think that the war has increased religious and racial intolerances; or do you believe that we have a greater realization, because of the war, of our need to work as one nation and to have no 'inferior' people in our midst?"
It was a difficult question to answer because I think the tensions of war enhance racial or religious prejudices wherever they exist, for the time being. I am not at all sure but that the tensions which exist in the readjustment period, when people are getting back to peace conditions, are not almost as conducive to heightening our prejudices as the period of the war itself.
Yet when the history of the war is really written and people can look back on it with comparative calm, I think the realization of our great accomplishment will carry with it the understanding that the accomplishment was great because on the whole our differences, both racial and religious, were ignored, were swallowed up by the great objective of winning the war.
It will be difficult to gauge what the people of the country really feel because at present the questions that are coming up are very largely dealt with by our political representatives in Congress. Many of them are far removed from the reactions of the soldier or of the worker; and if these two sections of the constituency are not accurately represented, Congress may not be aware of it until the next election.
Some people tell me that the next elections are going to show that the whole country has gone extremely conservative; and, in fact, if we could repeat the Harding and Coolidge administrations, we would do so. Others tell me that the young people who fought the war, in many and varied capacities, have shed a great many prejudices and acquired a great understanding and courage about the future. These young people may not be so easily classified in any political party. But they will vote for the men and women whom they feel represent the liberal points of view which most of them have come to think are a necessity to insure economic and political stability in the future.
Two things, I found, are much in the people's minds. One is the Poll Tax bill, and the other is the Fair Employment Practices act. Curiously enough, the colored minority, whom one would expect to be chiefly concerned, rarely mentions these two bills. It is nearly always in groups of white people that someone asks a question about them.
Getting a truthful answer to that first question which was asked me will be difficult until after the next election, and then perhaps we will find that the answer varies in different parts of the country.