FEBRUARY 23, 1956
NEW YORK—A keen observer in the state of Alabama, a Southerner by birth, is watching with deep anxiety and righteous indignation the violence which seems difficult for anyone outside of the South to understand. This woman also is looking with apprehension at the formation of white citizens' councils. She writes me as follows:
"At one and the same time that the politicians are howling and the hysteria is mounting, they (our Southerners) completely accept the integrated federal Army and Air Force installations and beg for more. They go out to the officers' club and eat with Negro officers at the next table and think nothing of it. They work by the side of the Negroes and think nothing of it.
"They go by air and accept integration at the airport and on the planes and think nothing of it. They also have accepted integration on the trains and think nothing of it. By and large, the Southern white boys have accepted integration in the Army and have not thought too much about it.
"This is not reason but hysteria and, like the scream of 'red,' the scream of 'race' has become a political symbol and each man thinks he has to outscream the other to prove his own purity.
"The only way to deal with it is firmness. The Army could have stopped all the trouble in Montgomery in a week by simply declaring Montgomery out-of-bounds for military personnel, and giving them a little while to think of the price they must pay for their prejudices.
"I think for the Army to send Negro personnel into Mississippi is cruelty, and it is almost as bad in Alabama.
"People seem to be afraid of the South, which is not so much different from other places. Nor are the people. They have been educated wrong as regards race. I believe they can be re-educated, but not by pious hopes and inaction. It is going to take firm action on the part of the rest of the country.
"The churches, the YMCA, the unions, the U.S. government, all pronounce their undying devotion to the cause of equality. But when they come down here, they don't practice it at all. Even the League of Women Voters is segregated."
What an inconsistent people we are! Segregation in the League of Women Voters might make sense if all barriers to voting by Negroes were lifted. And, it seems to me, that this will be done and done soon. So it is important that the league's voter education should be offered to all citizens. More important, it should be available to new voters, who need this help.
There are many, many good people in the South. They have worked hard for what is right and are deeply troubled by the violence. They are concerned, too, over the hysteria which now is sweeping a few of the states, making their people lawless and easily inflaming them by speeches such as those by Senator James O. Eastland, of Mississippi.
You cannot blame the youth of the South when men in high positions speak as Senator Eastland did awhile ago. Such utter lack of responsibility is difficult to understand.
This is a question that needs cool heads as well as soft speech and firm action within the law.