JUNE 20, 1951
NEW YORK, Tuesday—I was very much disturbed when I read the account the other day of the treatment accorded by some New Rochelle, N.Y., policemen to three ladies whose husbands are members of the Pakistan delegation to the United Nations. These ladies were wearing their native dress and for some unknown reason were mistaken for Gypsies who had been suspected of shoplifting. They were taken rather roughly to the police station before they identified themselves.
The head of the delegation, Professor Bokhari, has quite rightly lodged a protest with our government and we will probably have to apologize officially.
In every area of our country we are under constant observation and every citizen should be aware of the fact that in the treatment of peoples from other lands, as well as in the treatment of our own minority racial or religious groups, we should be meticulous in our courtesy and in our justice.
It seems to me highly unwise to arrest people on suspicion of something that they have not done—and to do so roughly is even more unwise. Even if the suspects had been in the shop, unless they were proved to be stealing they should not be treated in the way in which these innocent foreign ladies were treated.
One incident such as this can destroy years of effort on the part of thoughtful diplomats and government representatives. Think of what the papers in Pakistan will say, think of what the Soviets will say. I assure you the tale will not lose in the telling and the Russians seem to be more skillful in the art of propaganda to reach the masses than we are.
For such a thing to have occurred in a high-class shop seems strange to me. I should think it would be impossible for the shop not to recognize the type of dignity and modesty that is characteristic of all Indian women. It certainly should not be difficult to tell the difference between an Indian costume worn by so many of the Indian ladies and the usual Gypsy garments.
All of us today should be conscious of our responsibility and see that our foreign guests, wherever they may be in this country, are treated with understanding and courtesy. This is a personal obligation all of us should assume because it has an effect upon the good feeling that must be developed between us and our neighbors in the Near East and the Far East.
On Sunday evening I attended the opening session of the Collegiate Council for the United Nations and spoke on the Covenant of Human Rights. It was a very earnest and interesting group and I enjoyed being with them. A number of foreign countries are represented by their students in the group.
I described for them one type of grassroots Soviet propaganda which I had been told was widely used in Iran during the last few years. One of the delegates from the Far East promptly said that in traveling in Burma she had seen the same methods used. And a young German from West Berlin said he had seen the same type of propaganda carried on by the Communists in West Berlin.
This was quite interesting and I am not very happy at feeling that it is so widespread.
Names Mentioned or Referenced
- [ index ] New York (N.Y., United States)
About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, June 20, 1951
Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University Old Main Building, Suite 406 1951 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20052
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