DECEMBER 2, 1960
NEW YORK—An interesting sidelight of the trouble in New Orleans is the fact that the three judges of the Federal court who avoided all the segregation laws and resolutions of the recent session of the Louisiana state legislature are native Southerners. Two of the judges were born in New Orleans.
They affirm that the Constitution of the United States makes a Supreme Court decision binding upon the states, and the states cannot through their own legal actions refuse to observe a decision by our highest court. This is common sense, since the Supreme Court decision really represents the will of the majority of the people of the country.
It is true that in certain states a high-court decision, such as that of integration, would be far more difficult to accept than in the majority of the states. In the latter, in theory at least, there never has been any difficulty in accepting the right of any child to attend a public school, and the idea of segregation never really developed completely.
In its decision the Supreme Court gave the states time to make their adjustment, recognizing in that way that this was a difficult thing in the areas where it meant a real change in local mores which had existed over generations. But, it seems to me, six years is ample time to make an adjustment. In the public schools of our country there should be no difference made because of color, race or national origin.
Discrimination of any kind leaves scars on the human soul. The development of a child is not normal when he knows that in some way there are restrictions on him that are not imposed on his neighbors. Many white people in the South have recognized for a long time that desegregated schools were inevitable, and some valiant white Southerners, even in New Orleans, have taken their children to school despite the jeers and the riots and the hatred in the faces of those who turned out to work for cruelty and hatred.
Of course, integration would be easier if it were started in the kindergarten, but, in any case, it is not the young people who are responsible for our troubles even in the South. It is the parents who, instead of teaching the true ideas of democracy which are the inspiration of love of our brother man and the belief in human dignity, refuse to accept the basic dream of what America was to be. They seem to want to turn us into something more nearly resembling the Nazism that we fought to put down and destory in the Germany of World War II.
The sooner we accept the fact that we are, in the minds of the world, the example of what democracy really means and that our struggle for equality and justice for all our people is being watched by the whole world, the sooner will we as a nation realize what a very great responsibility we have to the world. Our dream of equal opportunity and equal dignity inspired so many to come to our shores. If we fight for it now, it will perhaps again attract the allegiance of many who want to make of their countries a land of freedom and not a land of compulsion.
Yet some of our citizens seem to be torn between the apparent orderliness of our achievement of material goals and the chaos, which we seem unable to prevent under our democratic processes, and our lack of ability to offer spiritual and moral leadership.
To turn to a lighter theme for the moment, isn't that hat that the President wears on Inauguration Day rather unimportant?
My recollection is that with one hand the President is holding the hat off his head and with the other he is waving to the crowd the whole way from the White House to the Capital and from the Capitol back to the White House. He waves with the hat now and then, but does it matter whether it is a top hat or a Homburg or any other kind of headgear he holds in his hand?