MARCH 17, 1956
NEW YORK. Friday—I was interested to see that the liberals in Congress reacted with some shock to the manifesto against desegregation by Southern Senators and Representatives. I understand that the document was toned down considerably. But even as it stands, it seems to me a shocking document. It also points up a letter that came to me the other day and which I quote:
"It frightens me terribly to think that my sons (aged 10 and 12 years) will soon learn that our Constitution is their safeguard because they are white but does not protect the young Negro boy across town because he is of another race.
"How am I to explain this discrepancy to them when among my closest friends are two Negro couples, an Hawaiian family, Italians, Mexicans and Jewish folk, besides Catholics, Protestants, etc.?
"What am I to answer when they now accept all people as equals and later find out they are 'different' and are not accepted all over this country?
"How can they go into military service willingly with the knowledge that some time they might be called upon to fight for the principles they were taught to revere, if they find out (and find out they must!) that freedom is a sometime thing?
"I am afraid they will grow bitter and resentful and wonder if it pays to be a good citizen!"
This is one woman's reaction. It might well represent the reaction of great number of people in this country, for we are a country made up of many races. And, of necessity, in many parts of the country we do have friends of many races.
Increasingly, as the world grows smaller through rapid communication and transportation, we acquire friends of many colors. None of us in the North, who recognize how far from perfect racial integration is in our area, has any right to minimize difficulties faced by the southern states, where one particular race is predominant and a color barrier was set up by the original pattern of slavery.
The problem is very, very difficult and will require the position which the President has taken—a slow, steady enforcement of the law.
Our Constitution is interpreted by the Supreme Court. And the law, as defined by the Supreme Court and enacted at every level of government, is made by men. Yet we always have felt in this country that once men are placed in positions of responsibility as judges, they act to the best of their ability with integrity and fairness, reflecting the state of public conscience as nearly as possible.
At the present time, I think, the public conscience is reflected by the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution. The great majority of the states look upon segregation as discrimination. And those few states that have a special problem in this respect will, in a variety of ways, slowly have to solve their problem and accept the will of the majority.