JANUARY 2, 1954
HYDE PARK, Friday—I received a letter the other day which was for me rather a shock. It quoted some of the clauses in the constitutions of some Greek letter college fraternities or sororities. Here is one example: members "must be of the Aryan race and not of the black, Malayan or Semitic race." I can't help wondering why they picked out Malayan particularly. It seems to me that they might have found something more all-encompassing than Malaya. Another clause includes the Mongolian race.
As I read this communication I could not help laughing. It all seemed so utterly ridiculous. In a world which is growing so interdependent, how is it possible for people to think about each other in little compartments? Heaven knows, we don't like all of the members of our own race, but we do find a few that we get along with very well.
Possibly if we had a chance of association with some people of these other races mentioned we might, while disliking some of them, like others. I have always felt that this curious way of labelling whole groups of people as unacceptable was an impossible thing to go on within a world where you are constantly meeting large groups of these "unacceptables," perhaps even having to go and live among them for business or professional reasons.
But to get back to our own fraternities, we have in the United States people who descend from many different races. Most of us can count at least five or six different strains of blood in our veins. I have French, Scotch, English, Irish and Dutch—that I know about!
There are many other people who are good Americans today who have come from many other parts of the world and it is impossible to say that you will accept this person but you will not accept the other, purely on the basis of some racial strain. Of course, I know that there are also situations in this country where there is discrimination on religious grounds but that, too, seems to me very un-American and probably is as out of place in the world of today as discrimination for racial reasons.
There are some signs apparently that young people are discovering that these discriminations are foolish and harmful. Princeton sophomores, several years ago, demanded that eating clubs open their memberships to all students regardless of race or creed. The Harvard University Student Council voted 12 to 6 in the same year to ban discrimination, because of color, race or nationality, from the membership of all college organizations. The University of Wisconsin in 1950 had a body of students that recommended that a four-year deadline be set for fraternities and sororities to remove restrictive clauses from constitutions, if they are to remain on the campus. At Cornell an organization including members of all races, creeds and colors, was host in the year 1950 to delegates from 17 colleges who seek to end bias and indicated that they would take in any fraternities expelled for abandoning discriminatory restrictions.
These few examples will show that changes are coming about and coming about largely through the young people themselves and one can hope now, I think, that before many years, the hurt that has come to many young people will not be repeated.