If You Ask Me by Eleanor Roosevelt

If You Ask Me
by Eleanor Roosevelt

May 1949

 

Why is there so much hysteria against Russia, but seldom any criticism of Fascist Spain or Argentina? Isn't it because whenever a country adopts socialism or communism it is closed to further exploitation by American monopolies?

No, I do not think there is hysteria against Russia. There are perfectly valid criticisms of the U.S.S.R. for certain practices with which we do not agree. There are also valid criticisms of fascism as it appeared in Spain and as it has appeared in the Argentine.

I do not think that today American manufacturers are exploiting any part of the world in the way many interests did two or three decades ago. Exploitation is more difficult for any nation, but it is certainly not because the nation has adopted communism or socialism that this is the case. I would be inclined to say that in the case of communism it is the communist government which does the exploiting, and there is no citizen to do much criticizing. If any of our monopolies, so-called, were to try to do much exploiting in a socialist or democratic state there would be plenty of criticism.

 

I am twenty-nine, unmarried, and have a secure but mediocre job in the town where I live with my parents. I want marriage and a home, but there is only one type of man who genuinely appeals to me—a type which is very rare in my locality, but numerous in a different section of the country. I am seriously considering moving to that section in the hope of finding a desirable husband. Would it be foolish of me to take this step?

No one can make the decision which you have presented to me except you yourself. I have never found that one could pick a type as a husband.

As far as leaving your parents goes, hard as that sometimes is, it is justified if one has the opportunity to really accomplish something definite by so doing.

 

A group of businesswomen in Southern California have been studying the terrible situation of the Indians, and those of us who are registered Democrats and who stood behind your husband ask one another why nothing effective was done during his incumbency for these first Americans. While you were traveling here and there getting aid for backward groups, why did you never do anything for the Navajos?

I have known about the situation of the Indians for a long time. My husband and I were always troubled about them and I am sure that the former Secretary of the Interior, Mr. Harold Ickes, would tell you that both my husband and I were concerned during the whole of my husband's administrations about conditions among all the Indians. It is not just the Navajos. There are many other tribes that are having a bad time and nowhere has the problem been completely solved. This is largely, of course, a question that is in the hands of Congress and of the people of the country, who must be willing to have certain things done by their representatives in Congress and show an interest in pushing them.

It may be that the present campaign of information may help more than anything else, but I have found it very difficult in the past to get anything actually done in Congress for the Indians.

 

What do you think is the reason that President Truman does not investigate un-American activities in the United States?

I think President Truman feels the proper body to investigate un-American activities is the FBI. He could hardly do it himself and therefore he must count on the branch of Government which is supposed to do this work, to carry through and report to him.

 

I am a citizen of Holland. Is it true, as people say here, that colored people in America have a hard life? Is it true that there are special places where they must live just like the Indians? Do the Americans lynch a Negro when he is trying to vote?

The colored people in America have in some ways a hard life because they have been discriminated against in many ways in the United States. They are not treated as some Indians are, who are placed on reservations and treated as wards of the Government. The Negroes are full-fledged citizens, freed by Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, but in large cities there are often sections which become almost entirely occupied by different groups of people—colored people, Italian people, Puerto Ricans, and so on.

Lynchings in the United States occur only very occasionally, and I do not think a lynching would occur in the majority of states because a Negro was trying to vote. It might in a few states be considered as a way to prevent the Negro from using the ballot.

 

I have a daughter, seventeen, who will graduate from high school in June. She is planning to go to college and is willing to work for her room and board. Her father says we cannot afford to send her and will give no encouragement. I thought I could work part time to help her. Do you think it would be right for me to do this?

If your daughter is really bent on going to college she can earn her way through, and if your husband will consent to your working in order to help her it would, of course, be entirely right for you to do so and make it easier for your daughter in her first year, because colleges are not anxious to have their students work to earn their way during the first year.

 

Don't you think it's time that genuine American clubwomen do more than they are doing to fight communism?

We are able, all of us in this country, to make our own choices and stand up for what we believe in, and that is the way I think American clubwomen can make their contribution to American democracy. By making sure that democracy progresses, that we wipe out those failings, such as racial and religious discrimination, in our own country, and that we foster an increasing economic justice. Thus we will wipe out fears of communism because we so evidently have better conditions and greater justice here than in any other country in the world.

 

I read your answer to the question about teaching religion in the public schools. I agree that religion cannot be taught in schools because there are too many religions. My question is, what is your opinion of the Bible being taught in public schools?

I imagine there are few literature classes which do not teach the Bible, since many of our best writers have been influenced in their style by the Bible. Teaching the Bible as it bears on some particular church beliefs, however, would be teaching religion in the public schools.

 

Why doesn't the United Nations pass a libel law to prevent the poisoning of the minds of the people of one nation against the people of another nation through the use of propaganda in history books, newspapers, radios or movies?

The United Nations does not pass laws. It gets agreement among various nations and they may sign covenants or declarations or treaties. It would be interference with the freedom of information if you tried to prevent propaganda or tried to prevent the printing of certain books and newspapers or the production of certain movies or radio programs because they gave only certain types of information. The conventions which are designed to insure freedom of information will probably try to bring about some sort of agreement as to what type of information can really be considered warmongering and can therefore, by mutual agreement, be stopped.

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About this document

If You Ask Me, May 1949

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
[ ERPP bio | VIAF | WorldCat | DPLA | SNAC ]

Ladies' Home Journal, volume 66, May 1949

Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

Digital edition published 2014, 2016 by
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project
The George Washington University
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