JUNE 17, 1949
NEW YORK, Thursday—We are now reaching the final clauses in the Convention on Human Rights at our meetings at Lake Success.
We had quite a discussion yesterday over the federal state article, which is an article made necessary for the United States, at least, by our Constitution. Under the Constitution our federal government enjoys only such rights as are delegated by the states, with the states retaining the other rights. But the federal government alone has the right to make and adhere to treaties.
Therefore, a clause that recognizes these constitutional limitations must be included in any Covenant to cover our situation. The same thing holds good for states with colonial possessions.
For instance, the United Kingdom has granted certain colonial states constitutions under which they agree to consult them before undertaking any international agreement for them. This is a constitutional limitation on what the United Kingdom can undertake. Therefore, if it is not recognized in a colonial clause the United Kingdom could not adhere to a Covenant until it had consulted all of its possessions with whom it had entered into this agreement.
This might slow up accession by all colonial powers to many covenants and we are, I think, obliged to face the realities of the situation rather than to write covenants for an ideal situation in an ideal world.
Our federal state article passed, but on the other article it was decided to transmit it with the remarks of the various delegates to the governments for comment.
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On Tuesday evening I went to Brooklyn to speak at a meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. I must say I was a little shocked by some of the things I heard there about action taken by the police regarding certain cases in which members of minority groups were involved.
It is, of course, always true that people vested with authority over other people must exercise great self-control themselves, otherwise they are apt to use their authority arbitrarily. There are good and bad policemen as there are good and bad citizens without such authority.
I can remember the impression I gained from the head of a state prison camp I visited in Georgia some time ago. This man walked about carrying a whip in his hand, with a long heavily knotted lash, and as he talked I could not help thinking that I would not be very happy if I were completely under his control!
The meeting was a very stimulating one, however, because so many people attended. I hope that it meant great additional membership for the NAACP branch there.
The NAACP has a tremendous educational job to do and this task should be directed toward helping the members of this organization to assume greater responsibilities as citizens.
In the North, whatever other disadvantages colored groups labor under, they do participate as voters and can have great political influence. This influence can be wielded wisely and serve them well only if they understand the problems of their environment as they affect not only their own group, but as they affect the whole community.