In the first hearing in a grade school segregation case since the May 31 Supreme Court decree for an end to segregation, a three-man federal court ordered the Summerton, South Carolina, school district to proceed “with all deliberate speed” to operate on a racially non-segregated basis. This particular case is one of the original five in which the Supreme Court held that racially segregated schools are unconstitutional. The court order this week enjoined the trustees from refusing because of race to admit any child to any school. The court went on to agree that it may take some time, even a whole year, for the trustees to work out the necessary arrangements, but it retained jurisdiction of the case to check on what the trustees do. If they act in good faith, they need have no fear of being held in contempt of court, but the spokesman for the court, Judge Parker of Charlotte, North Carolina, said, “I assume that the trustees are going to obey.” The trustees, on their part, have announced they will close the schools rather than mix white and Negro pupils. It will be very interesting and illuminating to see what develops in this case, for South Carolina has been for long one of the most unbending of the states with respect to the problem of race relations. Both the state and the trustees should recognize that not only the court and the law, but also the spirit of history nationally is against them. Their resistance may delay, but cannot prevent the ultimate triumph of those democratic principles which our highest court so wisely, if belatedly, enunciated.
Of course one does not have to go to South Carolina to find examples of less-than-forthright measures to comply with the evident implication of the court’s decision. In our own case here in Tennessee, for example, the State Board of Education recently ruled that it would admit “qualified” Negroes this year to the graduate schools of the state colleges. The board went on to say that next year, they could be admitted to the senior year of the undergraduate school, the third year to the junior, and so on. It takes nothing more than elementary school calculation to arrive at the simple fact that, according to this formula, Tennessee will have complied in full with the court’s ruling by 1972, or 17 years from now. It requires no recourse to a crystal ball to see clearly that the issue is not going to wait that long on such timid boards of education, whether they be at the state or local levels. Experiences in desegregation among states, cities, and school districts since May 17, 1954, indicate that integration is accomplished most rapidly and smoothly if three things obtain:
- That the school officials, board, president, superintendent, principal, and anyone else in administrative or supervisory position, act firmly, fairly, and fearlessly. The law and its implications are clear. There is no excuse for hesitancy, half-hearted statements or actions in the matter;
- When adults stay out of the picture. This means that you and I as citizens and parents have a responsibility also to meet the challenge frankly, and refrain from injecting our own prejudices into the matter. Children of all races are amazingly and hearteningly flexible and adaptable. Left to solve their own problems of association, they will make fewer mistakes than when dictated by the prejudiced adults;
- When outsiders, which usually means professional demagogues, are not permitted to inflame sensitive circumstances by their breast-beating and partisan appeals.
Colored citizens have been patient and long-suffering in their battle for this simple, elementary right in a democracy. It is understandable that now, with the weight of the law where it should have been all the time, they are going to be equally as patient and long-suffering with school officials who would evade their responsibilities.
The U.S. president of the World Council of Churches has urged that the churches in this country set aside today for “summit-meeting” services. Dr. Henry Knox Sherrill, who is presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, has also urged Christians to pray daily for the conference. This morning, in the American church in Geneva, President and Mrs. Eisenhower were scheduled to join in prayer for the success of the meeting. The church is Episcopalian, but so many other Protestant Americans attend that it is almost interdenominational.
In Buenos Aires, Argentine Roman Catholics have not been disturbed as they attended a special Mass celebrated by Bishop Merlin J. Guilfoyle of San Francisco. The bishop and other Catholic clergymen and laymen were in Buenos Aires en route to the Eucharistic Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Some American sources earlier had been concerned about Bishop Guilfoyle’s mass in the riot-scarred Metropolitan Cathedral. Police still stand guard in front of the church, after the uprising against Argentine’s President Peron one month ago. But Friday’s service ended without any difficulties. After the mass, many of the faithful gave the traditional Argentine gesture of support, waving white handkerchiefs to Bishop Gulifoyle as he walked out of the cathedral.
This Eucharistic Congress, to which some 2 million Catholics from five continents are converging, is expected to look sharply into the troubles between the Catholic Church in Argentina [and President Peron].
In Fallsburg, New York, the Rabbinical Council of America has formally asked the Soviet Embassy in Washington to permit a delegation of rabbis to visit Jews in Russia. Spokesman for the council say it has received a communication from the embassy asking full details and the nature and purpose of the proposed visit. The council president, Rabbi David B. Hollander of Mount Eden Jewish Center in N.Y.C., said, “If our request is granted, it will foster the growing spirit of understanding between East and West which now appears to be emerging.” Of the proposed visit, Hollander said, “We seek only to visit co-religionists in an effort to strengthen the bond between our peoples. Announcement of the application was made at the council’s 12th annual meeting this week in Fallsburg. The meeting of the council, representing one million congregants, was attended by some 600 rabbis from all parts of the nation.
Of a very unusual nature comes this word from Vicksburg, Michigan. There the Rev. George Stannard, pastor of the First Methodist Church, says he’ll conduct Christmas services in his church today. He says he hopes in this manner to allow his congregation really to enjoy Christmas. Stannard says modern Christmas services have all the joy taken out of them by shopping, the scramble for gifts, the tedious writing of cards, and the worry over bills. This is a severe indictment of how warped we can make what started out as a truly spiritual commemoration. Most of us nowadays do not celebrate Christmas; we merely swap merchandise and call it Christmas.
As a people, our memory is usually terribly short with respect to the rapidly passing events that are brought to our attention through various communication media. It was almost a year ago that our newspapers were full of stories about events in a neighboring American country, Guatemala. A few days ago a nationally known commentator and columnist, a member of the Sokolsky-Pelger-Lewis Axis, which in my judgment is about the heart in the business, devoted his daily column to the tune of “Guatemalan picture looks brighter.” Under this title, Lewis paints in glowing terms the alleged progress made in the past year and the reputedly improved conditions of today.
Being skeptical of both his facts and interpretation, I indulged in as much research on the subject as time would permit, and came up with an entirely different picture. Though I must confess my disadvantage as to time and resources for research. The facts I uncovered are as follows:
Prior to the regime of the revolution, over which we presided, no one in Latin America was given more dollar help proportionately than Guatemalan dictator Jorge Ubico. Yet, this regime was overthrown at the peak of our munificence, mainly because its program undercut the feudal structure without providing alternatives, and this inflation that brought about general misery. Even our State Department’s white paper admits that the revolution which overthrew Ubico was urgently needed. Ubico was succeeded by the Arbenz regime, which embarked upon a program that included social security, sanitation, health projects, land reform, and similar badly needed changes. Perhaps without aid, certainly with our blessings, this regime was overthrown as communist, and the present administration of Colonel Castillo Armas, whose hold on the country today is so shaky that he dare not risk stepping outside the national palace unless surrounded by a large military force, and he did not attend the ball held for Vice President Nixon on the latter’s recent visit because there was not enough parking space for his machine guns. The State Department’s white paper found throughout the overthrown regime 16 known Labor Party members, i.e., communists, two or three with better than clerical positions, several veiled communists, four in relatively important positions, eleven suspected communists, against whom the evidence is flimsy. Doubtless there were others in provincial and town governments, but about all those named escaped abroad, except a Nicaraguan lawyer who was shot without trial. Thus, those who have suffered most have not been the communists but faithful non-communist civil service workers who have been thrown out of their jobs or thrown into jail.
Today unemployment is severe and the ragged and barefoot have reappeared in the city streets. General unemployment and destruction of labor unions have depressed wages from the approximate dollar achieved in recent years toward the 15-cent level prevailing under the Ubico dictatorship. Under the Arbenz pro-communist regime, Guatemala for the first time in history, became a food exporting country as a result of technical improvements long scorned by feudal agriculture. But within the last year the government has spent about $4 million for corn alone, and greater outlays will have to be made or many people will starve. The government’s plight is bad and growing worse. Salaries of government personnel, except for the army, are badly in arrears. Schoolteachers are hard-hit, and many schools have shut down. Public housing, road building, and other public works have been halted.
Civil rights no longer exist. All parties except Catholic groups and the new party created by the dictatorship have been outlawed. Castillo was named president by voters passing before soldiers at the polling places and shouting “Yes” or “No.” Not even the Soviets have ever dared stage such a barefaced travesty. Nothing like it has been seen in Latin America since the French soldiers prodded voters with bayonets in a plebiscite to seat Maximilian on the throne a hundred years ago.
No farm unions or cooperatives are allowed. Nearly all schoolteacher, student, women’s, and cultural organizations have been suppressed.
And this is the kind of regime for which we have earmarked $6,500,000 to help. It is unlikely that many American taxpayers would object to having their dollars spent to aid needy people to achieve greater democracy in a country on our own continent, but let us be honest with ourselves about Guatemala. The revolution we sponsored did not injure many of the real communists. The regime we are now subsidizing is no more a democracy in the American sense than is the Kremlin. Is there a moral principle involved here? It is about time that the rank-and-file of our citizenry re-evaluate the deals we have made in recent years with the Titos, the Francos, the Armas, and similar non-democratic governments. If we are going to deal with them as a matter of expediency, that is one thing, but let us not cloak expediency with distortion of what the facts are. This is hypocrisy of the rankest sort.