My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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CHICAGO, Thursday—I wrote an article not long ago on a question of discrimination in the colleges and I have a letter from a young man which I would like to quote. He says, "In 1948 a national intercultural-interracial fraternity was organized in Chicago, Illinois. This fraternity is known as Beta Sigma Tau. Its members are from all walks of life, Catholics, Jews, Negroes, Protestants and various Orientals. The fraternity is moving ahead slowly.

"Since 1948, the cultural and racial barriers have fallen in many fraternities, both Negro and white. However, the job is only begun and a new barrier has arisen: how do you maintain such a fraternity? They have a tendency to be all Jewish, Negro or whatever happens to be the dominant group. People, like water, have a desire to seek their own level. How do you avoid this?

"To be known as a liberal in college is one thing, but what about after college? Often one's job or position depends upon one's associates. Will he be accepted by his business associates if they find that Jews and Negroes were and are his fraternity brothers? Then there is always the danger of cultural and racial groups being branded as Communist-inspired, particularly by the gentleman from Wisconsin.

"You can do us at Beta Sigma Tau a great service by furnishing some of the answers we now seek. By all sound and logical reasoning, Beta Sigma Tau should now be one of the largest fraternities within the country."

If it is true, as you say, that people prefer to be in little tight compartments, I think there is very little that we can do about it. But it seems to me there must be enough people who realize that the world is growing smaller and that it is interesting to know individuals of other races and colors and creeds. It will help us to find out about this world in which we have to live. Of course, generalizations are always dangerous and if you go on the theory that you are going to include everyone because he belongs to a certain race or creed you are apt to find that you have brought together a good many uncongenial people.

But if in this fraternity you just forget races and creeds and try to get individuals together because they have similar interests and find companionship easy and interesting, then I should see no reason why your fraternity should not grow and be a very strong fraternity. Of course, there will always be people who do not think that one can mix people of different races and creeds, but it seems to me that the idea must change gradually since it is quite obvious that over the next few years we are going to be more and more thrown with people of various types.

We arrived in Chicago early this morning to find great cold, but fortunately none of the snow which seems to have blanketed New York since we left there last Friday night. I enjoyed my day in Kent University very much and particularly the opportunity in the evening to meet a large number of faculty, both men and women. Some of the students in the house next to the one in which I was having dinner sent me over some flowers and so they were asked to come over also and I was able to thank them at once for their kind thought. A great number of the students in this state university are second generation Americans, but one could never tell by looking at them that they had not been here since the 1600's.

It certainly is remarkable how quickly the stamp of a new country is evident in these young people. It is probably education and the desire to be as quickly as possible like one's neighbors which makes this rapid metamorphosis possible. And while I think it probably is difficult for the parents who originally came to this country to adjust themselves to their own children, it is undoubtedly a good thing for the country and the young people themselves.



Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Chicago (Ill., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, January 15, 1954

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.