FEBRUARY 11, 1960
EN ROUTE FROM LOS ANGELES—Sen. Kenneth Keating (R., N.Y.) is trying to arrange a compromise between two versions of civil rights legislation in Congress.
Attorney General William P. Rogers insists that a bill granting the President the power to appoint Federal registrars to enroll qualified Negroes to vote in Federal elections, but not in state elections, will not work. Under his plan, Federal courts would be authorized to appoint referees who would register qualified Negro voters and watch over the balloting and counting of votes.
The Rogers plan would permit Negroes to vote in both Federal and state elections. Any obstruction of these rights by state officials would result in civil contempt proceedings.
The registrar plan originated with the Commission on Civil Rights. Mr. Rogers thinks it is impossible to compromise between the two.
It seems a pity that there has to be argument about the best way to assure part of our citizenry the rights that it should automatically enjoy. The most basic of all our rights, after all, is to be able to take part in our government.
In looking back over the many years since Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which was to have given free citizenship to those we held in slavery, how little we have to be proud of!
Now, I suppose the Southern legislators in the House and Senate will fight against this civil rights legislation just as hard as they fight any other effort to bring equality to all of our citizens. Yet these legislators must know and understand the effect that this sort of thing has on the way our leadership is viewed in other parts of the world, particularly Asia, Africa and South America.
They are the ones who should be telling their constituents how important it is to this country's world leadership that we treat all of our citizens on the basis of equality and justice.
The colored peoples of the world, who outnumber the whites and are gradually gaining their freedom from the political domination under which they long lived, are sensitive to any outside influence that does not promise them consideration on an equal basis with the whites.
We had better understand this. Unless we do, we are apt to lose to the Soviet Union a great many countries which might otherwise have developed as democracies and enjoyed the kind of freedom that, in the long run, we believe all people really want and need.