Young discusses the history of the Urban League, and he reports on the interracial aspect of the organization. He describes the group as social engineers and strategists. Young examines how, in the civil rights movement, issues of race and class intersect. He is concerned with the split between the African American masses and the African American upper class. Warren asked Young to consider Gunnar Myrdal's hypothesis concerning Reconstruction. Young discusses inclusive and exclusive groups of both white and African American organizations. Warren and Young discuss the “old split” between the ideals of W.E.B. Du Bois's "talented tenth" and Booker T. Washington's “self improvement” strategies. Young argues that the problem with integration is that 10% of white Americans support integration, 10% oppose integration, and 80% are indifferent. Thus, the problem lies with the 80% that “ignored” African Americans.
Whitney Young (1921-1971) was a civil rights activist. Young was born in Shelby County, Kentucky. His father was the president of the Lincoln Institute in Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky. His mother, Laura Young, was the first African American postmistress in Kentucky (a woman in charge of the post office; the term is seldom used today). He earned his BS from Kentucky State University, a historically black university. His experiences during World War II led him to a career in race relations; as a first sergeant he witnessed the racial tension first-hand as he had to mediate between African American soldiers and Southern white officers. Following World War II, Young became the Executive Director of the National Urban League (NUL) and led the organization through its most prosperous period by transforming the NUL from a relatively passive civil rights organization into a more aggressive force in the civil rights movement.
Image: Original caption: Whitney M. Young, Jr., executive director of the National Urban League, reads a statement condemning the racial violence sweeping the country as unjustified during a news conference here July 26th. Aside from Young, the statement was also signed by three other civil rights leaders: Roy Wilkins, A. Phillip Randolph, and Martin Luther King. July 26, 1967. Copyright: Bettmann/Corbis.
CONVERSATION 1, TAPE 1 Searchable TextCollapse
[These digitized texts are based upon 1964 typed transcripts of Robert Penn Warren’s original interviews. Errors in the original transcripts have not been corrected. To ensure accuracy, researchers should consult the audio recordings available on this site.]
Transcript of a Conversation with
MR. WHITNEY YOUNG – April 13, 1964
MR. WARREN: You were going to tell me about the history of the Urban League in relation to its present function, is that right?
MR. YOUNG: Yes. The role of the -- the importance of the Urban League, Mr. Warren, is only understood if one recognizes at the outset that the solution to the problem of race relations involves many courses of action, that this is not a monolithic problem and there needs to be, therefore, a variety of activities. The Urban League conceives of itself as working towards the same goal, and that it supplements and complements, the activities of all other organizations, that we are the organization that will give meaning to the slogans “Equal Opportunity” or “Freedom Now” in that first-class citizenship is more than the removal of barriers; it’s more than the establishment of new laws, it’s more than the right to go into a restaurant or into a neighborhood. Also involved is the necessity to have the resources in terms of qualification, in terms of economics, in order to take advantage of new opportunities. So the Urban League in this sense is the -- we are the social engineers, we are the strategists, we are the planners, we are the people who work at the level of policy-making, policy implementation, the highest echelons of the corporate community, the highest echelons of the governmental community – both at the federal, state and local level – the highest echelons of the labor movement. In terms of the -- providing them with the necessary facts, we do the research. We’re the professional arm. You’d have to understand that the Urban League, unlike the other organizations, is a professional organization. We have some 525 full-time staff --- 350 of these are professional people with their master’s degrees and over, --working full time in some 65 communities around the country where 85 percent of the urban Negro population lives. We have some 13 leagues in the South, and 52 in the North, all in urban cities; each of these organizations, affiliates, like the National Board, must, under its constitution, be interracial, and increasingly the staff reflects that same philosophy. But the boards throughout the country are composed about 50-50 of responsible white and Negro citizens who meet on a monthly, even every-other-week basis, in order to discuss and to resolve some of the basic problems.
MR. WARREN: This leads us to a fundamental difference between your organization and some others, and between your philosophy and some other philosophies, on these matters. Let me read you just a quote. May I?
MR. YOUNG: Yes.
MR. WARREN: It’s a question with relation to the white man. This is a summary in a forthcoming book on race relations. I’ll read the quote from it and we’ll see if it makes sense, whether it makes sense or not. “In Baldwin, James Baldwin’s ‘Cosmology,’ in fact: “There seems to be no decent white of any sort and no way a white man can prove his decency. If you are hostile you’re a racist; if you express friendship or sympathy you’re . . . . . . a liberal, a particularly for the course of innocence. If you commit yourself to action this merely proves you’re condescending towards the Negro, to purge your own conscience.” Well-- you see the line.
MR. YOUNG: Yes, I see the line, and my analysis would differ. Besides that, first of all I think that neither white people nor Negro people have any monopoly on virtue or on vices. My analogy of this situation is that the present plight of Negro citizens -- and that plight is really a very serious one --- results not so much from historic ill will or good will, but actually what we’ve had in our society is about ten percent of white Americans who have been actively concerned and who have been actively working toward integration, about ten percent who have been actively resistant, who have worked to preserve the status quo, or to even send the Negro back to Africa. But about eighty per cent of white Americans have been largely indifferent. This has been active apathy, active indifference, so it hasn’t been ill will or good will; it’s been no will that is largely responsible. This is characteristic of Americans. We tend to focus on the pleasant and the beautiful and the gay, and to push in the subconscious that that is ugly and unpleasant, particularly if we feel some responsibility for it. So what’s happened largely is that white Americans have ignored the Negro; they’ve not taken the Negro seriously, they’ve driven around the slums, they keep their heads buried in The Wall Street Journal as a commuter train stops at 125th Street. This is a significance, it seems to me, of the Negro revolution, say of ’63, is that all America was forced to look at the Negro, there was a confrontation for the first point in the lives of many people, and this is where ’64 becomes a year of decision-making. We have assumed up till now that good racial relations meant the absence of tension and conflict, and not the presence of justice and equal opportunity. I don’t think that anybody can generalize about all whites being this or all Negroes being this. Obviously, now that we are confronted, many white people find themselves out of fear and insecurity and ignorance, identifying themselves more with the racists --- they’ll not vote for Wallace. But I think, increasingly, white America, when it’s confronted with the grim realities, with the tragic consequences of their indifference, with the threats to their way of life, with the inhumane kind of consequences that result from indifference in considering race relations as a spectator sport, will find themselves on the right side. But I’m not distressed by the unrest, by the tension, by the conflict; I think this in many ways is healthy, because it’s bringing the real attitudes and feelings to the surface where we can deal with them. It’s like a boil. You make a decision about whether you put a Bandaid over it and act like it doesn’t exist, or whether you lance it. Temporarily it doesn’t look good, but this is the only way of getting at the roots and bringing about some change. Historically, Americans have only reacted to crisis, and they’ve fixed a bridge when it fell in, or they --- there was an accident at the corner and they put up a stoplight.
MR. WARREN: Taking that two ways at this point, in the past, at least there’s one historical theory that says this, Negro gains have come as byproducts of national crises of one kind or another, but this brings on now in the last few years, a great drive on the part of Negroes to separate the present (quotes) revolution or movement or whatever we should call it, from this byproduct status in history.
MR. YOUNG: I wouldn’t say this entirely. I think we can attribute this heightened impatience, this accelerated kind of aspiration of the Negro directly to a number of historical forces. I think we can attribute it directly, in part, to the mobility of Negroes as made necessary by World War II when Negroes were taken out of the South for the first time in their lives they traveled throughout the world, they say how -- they got a taste of freedom, a taste of what it meant to be a man, they found out that their lives did not have to be lived in misery and abuse. I think the increased and perfected system of communications which immediately threw on the screen what was happening throughout the world; I think the increased education of Negroes, I think the Cold War, the competition between America and Russia, America attempting to prove more world leadership was forced to commit itself publicly over and over to a certain concept of democracy and freedom, that did not go unheard by the masses of Negro people. I think the emergence of African nations into independence and their subsequent receptions in America by the highest government officials, their appearance on television frequently at the U.N., gave to Negroes a new sense of destiny, a new sense of pride in race. It made them shake off their --- any feelings of inferiority. This, I think, all led up to, say, the incident in Montgomery with Mrs. Rhoda Park, where she sat on the bus for reasons even she cannot tell you now. In Montgomery, led up to Tuskegee, the sit-instructional, a direct result of the inability of the power structure to absorb the increasing number of intelligent Negroes. As long as it could absorb them into dependent positions they could control them and have them, but you began to get more, and -- but I don’t think this can be separated from certain larger forces that were at work in the total society that contributed.
MR. WARREN: There are a lot of ideas that come in here, and I’m going to hark back to the question we started with. It’s the conception among Negroes, or conceptions -- I’m not sure there’s not one of the white man, in this matter. We have all sorts of pronouncements, you see, of course like Miss Hansberry who, as you know, with the burning house, dismissed the middle-class American civilization, and do what with it after that, you see. Or a Black Muslim view or Baldwin’s statements or the statement you know of Farewell to Liberals -- all of these. You’re -- in a special position because your organization has been committed to a cooperation of a special kind even more positively than under NAACP, and this puts you in a crucial position -- your organization in a crucial position about what can the white man find to relate to in terms of this?
MR. YOUNG: I mean this is a very basic question. Let me say --
MR. WARREN: It’s a basic question.
MR. YOUNG: Yes. Let me say first that it is quite true that the Negro today no longer conceives of his goal in life as simply a replication of that white society, that he is at this point viewing a big more discriminately white America as to whether or not this, in toto, is what he wants to adopt as the best way of life. He is conceiving of integration now, more as a synthesis rather than as a complete dropping of all that is Negro and the adoption of all that is white. What he’s saying, in effect, is that all that is white is not good; it couldn’t be good, or else we wouldn’t have been kept in slavery and suppressed all these years that there must be some more bankruptcy here somewhere, there must be some value orientations that are not proper and good. He said that I think that I can bring something to a new society even though I --- I cannot bring, certainly a superior technological know-how, certainly I can’t bring the money, I can’t bring in many cases the same level of education, but out of suffering one develops something that goes beyond just jazz and music. One develops compassion, one develops a humaneness, one develops a --- certainly the Negro has developed a tolerance, a patience, that maybe the larger society can use. Maybe General Motors can use some of our compassion. And what we’re saying is, is that we --
MR. WARREN: Don’t be a dreamer.
MR. YOUNG: Yes. What we’re saying is that we would really like to --- well, first of all we don’t like the implication that what is black is bad and what is white --- Negro is bad and the only way to be right is to be white. Now --
MR. WARREN: May I tell you now?
MR. YOUNG: Yes.
MR. WARREN: Black equals bad; white equals good. I talked that long ago with a very distinguished Negro lawyer who said to me in a burst of passion: “I’ve disciplined myself now to retranslate the imagery, the symbolism of the white world, the white values, the bright light, of learning all the symbols. I now reverse them. And then one remembers that these symbolisms are not American. In African dancers you’ll find the figure of being good with a white robe and the figure of an evil with a black robe; or in Chinese the chalked face and a charcoaled in these matters. Now so it’s not merely a cultural difference. Now how does one deal with this fact?
MR. YOUNG: Well, I would say --
MR. WARREN: How does a Negro deal with this fact and say it’s not a white man’s trick, you see . . . . . it’s perfectly simple.
MR. YOUNG: Yes, I would think it’s childish to reduce this as a kind of immaturity, to reduce this purely to --- I’m going to reverse and call black good and white bad. I think what we’re most concerned today about is, is white as being a symbol not of a race but as a kind of character and value system, and a kind of maturity. I think what we’re fighting against isn’t so much making white bad as not making black bad, and what we are working toward is a society where we borrow the --- we lift the positives out of both cultures, reject the negatives, and we can find negatives in both cultures, and move toward a new society that is much better than either of the old. You see I have a theory that with work and with thought, we can --- if we can’t change status-seeking and if we can’t change conformity, at least we can change the norms to which people are conforming, and we can change the symbols that represent status; and instead of exclusiveness as it relates to a neighborhood or school or bus, exclusiveness being good, if we can change that and make inclusiveness possible, we can somehow get people to see that only the hopelessly insecure and inadequate person needs to surround himself with sameness.
MR. WARREN: Don’t you find the same problem among Negroes about exclusive?
MR. YOUNG: But it’s a different reason. The Negro who chooses --
MR. WARREN: Now let’s say . . . . . the fact.
MR. YOUNG: The fact. And the Negro chooses or who will say that he prefers to be in the all-Negro setting, either housing or in his social company, is saying this is out of a fear that he will not be accepted in the other --- and it’s a defense, where the white person is saying, “I want this because I think it represents superiority and exclusiveness.”
MR. WARREN: Let’s take it then a little further. When Miss Hansberry or when Baldwin or when others say, “White liberal, stay away; we are running this show,” this is exclusive . . . . . Or . . “White man we don’t want to integrate with because he is for the Black Muslims,” or take it . . . . .as I’ve seen a lot quoted - -
MR. YOUNG: I think this is unfortunate -
MR. WARREN: It’s true, though. It’s one element we have to deal with it.
MR. YOUNG: You have to deal with it, but one of the tragedies in this whole civil rights struggle is the inability of the white person to distinguish leadership. For example, any Negro who achieves a certain amount of popularity or prominence, whether it’s a Cassius Clay or a baseball player Willie Mays, he immediately, you see, when he utters something about the race relations problem he his treated and thought of as an expert.
MR. WARREN: Like the white Southerner.
MR. YOUNG: Yes. The analogy to this was to ask Primo Canera, or Tony Gallento, you know: What do you think about foreign policy. Or to ask some --- you know, Mickey Mantle. I think we ought to keep in perspective here, that while Lorraine Hansberry is a very gifted playwright and while Baldwin is a very gifted writer, these are not people who either by their experiences or by their training or by their whole emotional orientation, are by any means leaders of the Negro revolution. They are people who describe it, who react to it, who write about it, but who themselves are not people equipped to suggest strategy, to interpret the social implications. And again, it reflects the lack of contact that the average white person has. The only Negroes that some white people know are the popular entertainers or writers or athletes, and so they’re pretty much a victim or beneficiary, as the case may be, of that person’s interpretation. It must be remembered that when the struggle was really hard and tough, Baldwin couldn’t take it. He left the country; he wasn’t even here, that many of these people who are now able to write about it, make a wonderful living on it, but let’s not confuse this leadership. You see Time Magazine made that mistake. Baldwin should have been on the cover of Time Magazine if Time Magazine was going to do a story on contemporary American writers who are addressing themselves with some impact to the current American scene, but instead they had him on there with, --- they were talking about the Negro revolution. Well, then, you should have possibly had a Roy Wilkins or somebody, who --
MR. WARREN: Who in his role as a writer has been tied to his . . . . . work.
MR. YOUNG: Yes, but this --- again, this only reaches the intellectual kind of white person, who is moved by this, who has a great deal of guilt feeling and whom Baldwin knows well, are in a masochistic kind of mood of mind where they don’t feel like they’re going to do anything, but at least they will permit themselves to be ridiculed and punished.
MR. WARREN: Now masochistic he means white people or Negroes now?
MR. YOUNG: White people. Pardon me. I think a great deal of the player --
MR. WARREN: Isn’t there some of that in Baldwin? He talks about the gas chamber for the American Negro; isn’t that masochistic?
MR. YOUNG: No, I --- but my point is that a great deal of the preoccupation of the white press, whether Malcolm X or Muslim movement or Baldwin or Adam Powell, is a kind of guilt feeling, and saying well, he beat me Daddy, you know I’m willing to be punished, I feel guilty. A couple --- of course with Malcolm X and some of these others, it’s --- many white people are saying, unconsciously: You know I’m sort of sympathetic to this notion of separatism. You take the Muslims, for example, there’s many a white person who’s irritated about the tension and the conflict, frightened by the threats of integration of their neighborhoods and all this, and along comes a man of philosophy who says, “I don’t want to integrate your schools. I don’t want to integrate your neighborhoods. I don’t want to integrate your daughters. I’m going to get rid of crime and welfare.” There’s many a white person who subconsciously says, “Look, this isn’t too bad an idea.”
MR. WARREN: Let’s subsidize him.
MR. YOUNG: Yes, see if we can’t play this up. So instead of talking about Whitney Young and his efforts to integrate . . . . . let’s play up the Muslims. But this is very stupid, because the truth of the thing is, is that there wouldn’t be ten Negroes who would follow Malcolm X to a separate state, even if America was going to give him one and they aren’t going to do that. Africa doesn’t want our welfare load any more than New York wants a welfare load; they aren’t going to import them to Africa. The appeal that a Muslim has is a kind of an opportunity for a Negro who’s been beaten down all day, had to get a vicarious pleasure out of hearing somebody cuss out white people. But Negroes --- this is not a serious --
MR. WARREN: Like the Ku Klux Klan in reverse.
MR. YOUNG: That’s right, it’s precisely --- it’s the capitalizing on and exploitation of misery and despair and hopelessness, and it’s very easy to the demagogue --
MR. WARREN: Is there one thing more --- back to DuBois, for instance, his talk about the great split, in the American Negro’s psyche, on one hand the pull toward Africa, the pull toward the mystical black . . . . . the pull toward a special cultural heritage, that pull --- as opposed to the pull, splitting in the other direction, to identity with the Western European American tradition, the Judaic-Christian tradition, even to be absorbed totally and lose his blood identity in that tradition, in that race. Now this great split, for some this is a real live problem right this minute, they tell me, at least.
MR. YOUNG: It’s probably more now than--
MR. WARREN: . . . . . . is it more or is it not?
MR. YOUNG: It’s probably more now than ever before.
MR. WARREN: How does that --- how do you feel about that? Personally, or . . . . .
MR. YOUNG: It’s probably more a dilemma now than before, because historically --
MR. WARREN: Now that’s a very interesting, than now, that’s very interesting.
MR. YOUNG: Yes, you see, in the past, ten years ago even fifteen years ago, Negroes made very little attempt to identify with Africa. There was no real effort. In fact they denied any real relationship. It’s been only in more recent years, as Africa’s some into independence, and all this. I think what’s working here is not so much the conflict between retaining his black identity that’s as important, for importance sake, as the feeling --- that unless we have this kind of group solidarity we won’t achieve the other, that this type of solidarity has been practiced by every other group in our society --- minority group -- the Irish, Italians, or the Irish, the Italians, the Catholics, Jewish people did it, and so the pull is more toward this as a tactic, as a survival technique than it is any basic, I think, conflict with do I want to worship the idols in Tanganyika or do I want to worship Jesus Christ? I don’t think it’s --- you see the Negro basically has not this kind of historical contact and relationship with Africa; he’s never been really that close.
MR. WARREN: He’s cut off.
MR. YOUNG: He’s been cut off, yes.
MR. WARREN: This makes a difference. The question is what kind of difference and how much of a difference is the real problem, isn’t it?
MR. YOUNG: Well, I think that the new pride in race is a very positive thing, because as long as a person felt that his being a Negro made him inferior or made him an object to be despised, then being a Negro was something he couldn’t’ help but subconsciously wish he wasn’t. Now there is developing, as more Negroes attain their rights and are recognized, and all this, as Africa has come up, there is this new pride in race. My concern is --- is that America move quickly enough to reward the Negro, give him his just rights, so that this pride will not degenerate into chauvinism and into a kind of blind nationalism which he feels is necessary for survival. I think that the big problem here now is to, as part of the dilemma that the white liberal is facing, is that what the Negro is saying today to him is that you’ve had all the institutions in our society and had an opportunity to do something about our plight: the churches, the businesses, labor, every other group. But you haven’t done it. Now I understand why. The group who’s offended, who’s hurting, must cease hurting. So the Negro has assumed the initiative, if they want to express their liberalism today, must accept the fact that the Negro must lead or that the Negro will accept him only as a peer.
MR. WARREN: The fellow . . . . . . isn’t always taken.
MR. YOUNG: That’s right.
MR. WARREN: The fellow that’s negotiating, anyway.
MR. YOUNG: That’s right. So that the --- and in many cases he must follow. Now what worries me is that most white people spend their time today6 bemoaning the methods and the tactics that Negroes are using, sitting around evaluating what’s good and what’s bad and what’s going to alienate and all this. Instead of saying, well, I don’t like the sit-ins or I don’t like the blocking of traffic, so I’m going to go on the Urban League’s massive Marshall Plan to get better housing and better education and better jobs.
MR. WARREN: You mean that the white man is saying this.
MR. YOUNG: The white man is spending more time concentrating on the inconveniences and the disturbances than he is on the basic causes of the problem, to begin with: the poverty, the one out of four who are out of work, the one out of six who are in poor housing, the 500,000 Negro kids between the ages of 16 and 21 who are out of work and out of school.
MR. WARREN: But you have to wonder about which are you going to support, though.
MR. YOUNG: I don’t think I have to make this kind of basic decision between either/or.
MR. WARREN: Well, I mean this way. I mean there are clearly some people do, when it comes down to the traffic blocking when the Fair opens up, or having a demonstration in the Fair or particularly in pavilions . . . . .
MR. YOUNG: Oh, I’m going to make it.
MR. WARREN: That’s a problem of actual choice.
MR. YOUNG: Yes.
MR. WARREN: In terms of policy for various people.
MR. YOUNG: And you’ll find responsible Negro leadership. On some things we have endorsed, other things we have not, we certainly will not endorse. We’ll take a public position against the stall-in. One the other hand, we would not oppose the picketing of the Maryland pavilion or the Mississippi pavilion inside the Fair. We have to make these kind of choices, but if ’63 did nothing else for us, it said this: that no longer can we generalize about our friends and our enemies in this whole struggle. In this -- in the past we’ve said Northerners are liberal and Southerners are bigoted and management is bigoted and labor is limited. We found, in 1960s, some of the most sophisticated and brutal bigots in the North and in labor than we ever found in the South, among management, and we found the reverse was also true.
MR. WARREN: You should have asked me; I would have told you, earlier.
MR. YOUNG: Well, actually I was disappointed but not surprised. I knew that when the chips were really down that we’d find a lot of these fair weather friends would desert us. As long as they could express their liberalism in terms of indignation about a lynching in Mississippi, this is one thing; when it came to moving next door to them this was something entirely different.
END OF TAPE
- See Tape 2
CONVERSATION 2, TAPE 1 Searchable TextCollapse
[These digitized texts are based upon 1964 typed transcripts of Robert Penn Warren’s original interviews. Errors in the original transcripts have not been corrected. To ensure accuracy, researchers should consult the audio recordings available on this site.]
Taped Conversation with
MR. WHITNEY YOUNG
First Tape of the Second Interview – April 29, 1964
MR. WARREN: Let’s for a starter, Mr. Young let me take a phrase or two out of some of your writings that I have been reading. The speech, The Social Revolution, Challenge to the Nation, you have a phrase that you will be able to put into its proper context: “Responsibilities of the Victims of Injustice”, that is not elaborated in the context. Would you like to speak to that point? What are such responsibilities, responsibilities of the American Negro?
MR. YOUNG: I have been concerned, as the Urban League has been for years, with the fact that with rewards, with rights, go responsibilities. I’ve been reluctant to -- and inhibited in elaborating on this more and publicly, and especially before all-white audiences, by two facts: one, the fact that I’m not sure that the average white American is aware of the great sense of responsibility that Negro citizens have already shown throughout history in providing for their own long before many of the welfare programs and social security benefits or other agencies that provided health and welfare facilities were open to them. Negro citizens, through their churches and their organizations, were forced to provide for themselves, and there has been a history of self help within the Negro community that I think is largely missed in history and is largely unknown to the white American, and to at this point in time concentrate too much on this, would make it appear that this is a new experience for him. So when I talk about Negro responsibility it’s reminding them of their continued and increased responsibilities as they get new resources, as they move into middle class status, as they develop certain stable family life in order to help out, as other immigrant groups have their own who are less fortunate. Nor the other reasons that I mentioned, and I developed this more in a speech, that inhibits me somewhat in talking about the responsibility of Negro citizens as much as I should like to, is that the -- so many of the columnists and so many of our newly appointed advisors in the press and –
MR. WARREN: You mean self-appointed –
MR. YOUNG: Self-appointed advisors have taken this line almost solely, and these are people who have in the past been largely indifferent to the plight of Negro citizens and to in discriminations against them, they’ve been people who fought against civil rights laws (I’m thinking of columnists like David Lawrence and Fulton Lewis); and who have done little to see that the Negro acquired his civil rights. These are people who now speak of Negroes assuming certain responsibilities before these rights are to be given. And also there is a tendency on the part of so many of these people wo (who) make it appear that before the Negro citizen as a group can get -- even deserves his civil rights, each and every Negro must measure up to some kind of level of a standard of morality and decency and responsibility.
MR. WARREN: May I cut across there to ask a question bearing on this? How much does the reluctance which you mention in yourself to discuss this publicly, relate to the old split in attitude and in policy between Booker T. Washington’s self-improvement program and casting-down-the-bucket-where-you-are program and all of that, as opposed to DuBois’s approach that is that is the very notion poisoned by the perhaps random and casual association with the Washington heritage. Is that part of it?
MR. YOUNG: Yes, I think very definitely there is an element that the word self-help has been throughout history tied in with the whole philosophy of Booker T. Washington.
MR. WARREN: So we’re dealing with -- this is a symbol, then, which carries the wrong flavor rather than with the actual concrete specific reference. Is that right?
MR. YOUNG: Yes, but I wouldn’t want to leave the impression that even with that reluctance is an absence of this altogether, and I think my speech “The March on Washington” is an example. You will note in the speech that I did this by trying it in not as an either/or, but I spoke about the responsibility of Negroes to do a lot of different types of marching. I pointed out that while it was necessary important to march in front of city halls and in front of courthouses and in front of 5-and-10-cent stores, to get elementary rights, that at the same time we must also march our children to the libraries and their parents must march to the adult education centers, the re-training centers and to the PTA meetings and to these other places, to be assured that once those rights were won and the doors were down, that the people would be in a position to take advantage of them.
MR. WARREN: I know you’re ________ position. I was more interested in the context of misunderstanding by both white and some Negroes on this whole question. Lately, I heard Dr. King speaking at Bridgeport and he wound up by not a “cast-your-buckets-down”, but if you’re a street cleaner, be the best in the world, you see.
MR. YOUNG: Yes.
MR. WARREN: That line –
MR. YOUNG: “That pine on the top of the hill be as strong as the bush in the valley.”
MR. WARREN: All of this. And this -- in another context would sound exactly like Booker T. Washington.
MR. YOUNG: Yes. But again, I’ve –
MR. WARREN: In another context.
MR. YOUNG: I’ve heard, I’m sure, a similar speech by Dr. King that this always is preceded by a most militant posture, and this comes sort of as after. But I think it’s important. I know that in my speeches and in many of the speeches of Negro leaders when in the all-Negro audience, 90 percent Negro audience, just like we ofttimes speak in church groups, their congregations, we deal with this a great deal, and the speech is an entirely different speech. 75 percent of it is a reminder to the Negro citizens that the removal of barriers alone will not insure first-class citizenship, so we don’t have that same reluctance to do this with an all-Negro group. And that’s why I think that the other is a more important consideration than the Booker T. Washington, and that is that this is what white people are saying; and since many of them are enemies, have been historically enemies of civil rights, we don’t want to be part of the parrot in the same lamb, and what I was trying to say, in this speech, if the white community wants to hear responsible Negro leaders speak more to their people about their own responsibilities, then let them speak to the white community about their responsibilities and we in turn will do this other. And I never want people to forget the amazing sense of responsibility that Negroes have shown throughout history probably more than any other ethnic group, given the provocations and the conditions of the responsibility of remaining loyal to the country, not being taken in by the communists, responsibility for not getting violent and for being restrained in the face of all kinds of provocations, the responsibility of taking care of their unwed children when white parents could either arrange for abortions or could get their kids sent off into institutions that were closed to Negroes. In a way this is a kind of a higher responsibility and a higher sense of morality than has been present in the other community. And we have historically taken care of our aged and who didn’t have the benefits of social security, because domestic workers couldn’t get social security. We’ve had to do this.
MR. WARREN: There’s a question relating to that, to this list of facts which you have given. There are complaints now and then by responsible Negroes that the actual cash outlay now, you see, in terms of philanthropy, in terms of support for organizations, is less than in ratio than might be expected from Negroes. This complaint occurs pretty often from responsible sources. I mean there’s a kind, another kind of responsibility to one’s own that’s different from the kind you’ve enumerated, which is being complained about, the lack of responsibility by some people.
MR. YOUNG: I think there are two factors here. No race throughout history that within its generation knew poverty, has ever distinguished itself by its generosity or its humanity, its philanthropy in that same generation; there’s an old saying that once you’ve been hungry, you’re never full. And there’s the constant haunting fear of a return to poverty, of your children suffering the same fate. Now I would expect the generation, the next generation of Negroes -- remember, this is the first generation, really, of Negroes who had anything approaching reasonable security. It was only after World War I and Negroes began to get some jobs in war plants and even so it’s just a handful, but I still think that given the Negro income, what it is, and given the fact that Negroes have to spend so much time and so much money to fighting for elementary rights, we have to give to the NAACP, which we can never list on our income tax returns, this can never be listed, and you can’t even list the Urban League if you live in the South, without being called in and questioned about a lot of other irrelevant things, even though it’s a tax-exempt organization. You have to really measure the Negroes’ giving in terms of the number of Negro doctors who serve, clients who never pay them, the numbers of lawyers who serve who never pay them, and the fact that we haven’t really developed any substantial wealth. We have a few businesses and the demands on them are terrific. The average Negro who is a school principal or who is the administrator of a social agency, occupies a status in the Negro community that’s completely unrealistic, but it makes him an attraction for everybody. Every church in that community that wants a donation and the white community, the Negro principal or the head of a social agency, is not even looked to, hardly, for a substantial contribution. But he is in the Negro community ________ and I think this we have to take into consideration.
MR. WARREN: Let me check this, a second. There’s another quotation from the same speech I’d like to refer to: “As we win the battle for civil rights, we can and might well lose the war for human rights”. You know the context of that?
MR. YOUNG: Yes.
MR. WARREN: I’d like to have you explain, if you will, please, sir.
MR. YOUNG: Well, here again is a real fear that I have that so many Negro citizens may have been led to believe that the solution of the problems of poverty which they face and poor housing, will be reached when the civil rights bill is passed or when the signs are taken down, and this is dangerous, because a type of disillusionment that may set in. In reality we know that this will not do it, and this is particularly true in an age where automation is taking over and increased education is needed and technical know how, and that I am fearful that Negro citizens will not understand the need for a diversified approach in this whole attack, and that there are many forces at work today that on the surface are really indifferent to race: the forces of automation, what’s going to happen as a defense budget is cut down and defense industries are closed. I doubt seriously if the American public will immediately convert that same money into the social sphere -- all this will pose some real problems.
MR. WARREN: There’s another approach to that question which is touched on by Oscar Handlon in his new book: It’s this: (I’ll paraphrase it without bothering to quote) His point is that there are many instances where it will be necessary to treat individuals as ________, as it were, move them around to say the school bussing and various other things. We should not neglect the fact that these -- this would give us a conflict of goods or a conflict of rights, and that they are not to be equated one with the other. That is -- he said this is not a defense of segregation, it’s just a recognition, but even in achieving integration, sometimes you must cut across other rights. You must balance the right against the right. He said that human rights actually underlie a broader band of proper integration may be violated Well, do you know what I’m getting at?
MR. YOUNG: Yes, I’m not sure, though. But one of the major points that I remember that he makes in the book is the fact that –
MR. WARREN: This is not major, by the way.
MR. YOUNG: Yes. -- is the fact that the Negroes may even prefer and may desire segregation, and we may find ourselves necessarily building permanently a segregated kind of societies, because the white community will -- there’s such strong resistance to artificially eliminating segregation, to techniques such as bussing, and what have you. And I don’t think the masses of Negroes are anxious to -- for integration, per se, I think the -- what they’re anxious for is first-class accommodations, housing, education, health facilities and all this, but I think that they are deeply convinced that as long as there’s segregation this will never -- they will never receive this, that segregation automatically makes it possible for a group to receive, to be identified and to receive inferior services and never throughout history has a suppressed group ever been given superior services. But the thrust for integration isn’t so much a thrust for association as it is a disbelief in quality services in a segregated city.
MR. WARREN: While I don’t want to misinterpret Handlon, he is not opposed to integration.
MR. YOUNG: No.
MR. WARREN: He is simply distinguishing it from the question of equality as a different concept, and sometimes they don’t match. And if I remember correctly, let me ask about another question he raises. He says equality tends to reinforce ethnic centricity rather than to reinforce the tendency to merge, this has been the record of other minority groups in the United States. Once equality is achieved, the other people tend to follow their taste and they tend to go back together, because they have nothing to prove, in a sense, of mixing.
MR. YOUNG: Do you agree with that, really? I don’t agree with that. That certainly isn’t true.
MR. WARREN: ________
MR. YOUNG: ________ minorities. Isn’t the Jewish minority now has become almost completely assimilated.
MR. WARREN: But Glaser says it is.
MR. YOUNG: Well, I think he’s right and then wrong. It is true that a divided group, in order to -- a divided, suppressed group -- reaches a point where it recognizes that its plight can only be corrected through group solidarity, and through building of unity and a certain confidence within the group’s ability to influence power and all this, and so as it moves from that point of division and disunity into one of unity, there is a certain amount of enthusiasm and a flaunting of power and a satisfaction that grows out of the ability to be unified and the victories which can be achieved in that situation, that many people may mistake for an end that the people themselves desire. Which is not true at all; this only makes it possible for people to get the psychological security that’s needed and the educational and cultural and material resources, the equipment, with which to really branch out. Now what will really happen is that in these communities where the group solidarity will ultimately be responsible for improving the educational facilities in these communities, and will be ultimately responsible for removing any feeling of inferiority on the part of the Negro, that same -- those same things will be responsible for giving him the security that will enable him to integrate. You see it sometimes -- it’s a defensive device when a person isn’t quite sure within himself that he either has the psychological strength or the educational equipment to complete. Then he says publicly and acts like he wants to stay together, but I think this is a temporary position and you will find almost without exception that the Negroes who have secured top education and are topnotch professionals, do the move out in, and comfortable so, both socially and residentially and everything else into an integrated pattern, and I don’t think they will be any exception.
MR. WARREN: You were saying that this has not been true, that ________ Handlon said this has not been true in the Jewish communities.
MR. YOUNG: Not at all. I think there’s a great concern in the Jewish community and has been since the Second World War that the American Jew has become so assimilated that he has lost all of his Jewishness, and would say this is true of all of the racial minorities who have become integrated here. It certainly is true of the Italians -- it certainly has become true of the Irish.
MR. WARREN: But this is a counter to what Glazer and Monahan argue and what Handlon argues. I have no way of judging this, you see, except by my random observations.
MR. YOUNG: The concern also seems to me almost wildly premature in regard to the Negro. The Negro is so far away from achieving any of the things that Handlon is taking for granted they’re going to achieve, again it sounds like one way of putting the Negro off, and I might say I find it rather irritating. I think it’s kind of a wishful thinking. It may be sort of a strategy that some of our sincere liberal friends might be adopted in order to assuage the fears of white people that the Negro really doesn’t want to integrate; what he wants is equal facilities and if we give him that then he will not then try to move into our neighborhoods and into our societies. I think it’s a dangerous theory because I don’t think it’ll work out that way, and I think instead we ought to press for the reverse, and that is what a terrible thing this would be for white people if Negroes do not attempt to move into their neighborhoods because it means they, too, will be left with this kind of in-culture in terms of sameness and all that that is so uncreative. And I would anticipate that white people will soon see the value of diversity as against the perpetuation of sameness and will be encouraging this.
MR. WARREN: Are we -- excuse me, please go ahead.
MR. YOUNG: When in history has any group remained in a ghetto once it emerged from a ghetto?
MR. WARREN: Is it “ghetto”, -- is the point if you have perfect freedom and -- and if you have perfect mobility and choose your way of life?
MR. YOUNG: But the Negro is concerned because he does not have a way of life because he’s not been given a way of life.
MR. WARREN: He doesn’t have it now, no.
MR. YOUNG: He hasn’t been given a way of life, and to think as Handlon does, is to think pretty much the way the Black Nationalists do, that the Negro is in some way a superior being and left to his own devices will form his own culture and his own society, and this can -- as far as one can make out over the last three hundred years the Negro’s tendency is to do just the opposite.
MR. WARREN: Let me raise a question that’s related to that. We’re speaking of pluralism in society and the enriching result of having variety and that this is a good thing, not a bad thing. Now we have two impulses, then, operating, two desires, we’ll say, and I’m with you on the -- there’s no question that to have a riches of variety makes life worth living. You like this, you don’t want it all evened out, make identical. But on one side the drift that you are arguing about, the complaint about the Jews becoming de-Jewedso he’s losing the –
MR. YOUNG: And more American.
MR. WARREN: And more American, and he’s losing his role as an interesting variation, a human variation. So this impulse is working too.
MR. YOUNG: Except my concept of integration doesn’t mean that any group gives up all that it has and adopts all that another group has. My concept of integration is that we explore and identify within each group the positives that have been developed out of that group’s culture. Even the Negro, I think out of suppression, has developed a kind of compassion and humanness, certainly a kind of patience and tolerance that General Motors could use, you see. So we’re -- I’m not just talking about his music and his rhythm, I’m talking about some other qualities that the larger society can use. So my concept of integration is that we identify these positives in both now the white culture, the technology, and all this that they have, these other things that the Negro has, we reject the negatives, the poverty of the Negro, his lack of education, the lack of culture that he’s developed that we reject in the white, the meanness, the selfishness, the inability to give up privilege and advantage that’s found all too often in the white society and we move toward another society, you see, that’s much better, that reflects a synthesis of these. This is what -- so I don’t think it’s really giving up at all.
MR. WARREN: Well, I see your point. Well anyway, we can’t legislate the future in this respect.
MR. YOUNG: No, but I think we can plan this. You see my theory here is that the kind of separate societies that have been developed in our communities has not happened through chance, but this has been consciously, deliberately planned, that what they did was play upon the status needs of people and they set a norm of exclusiveness as a criteria of success. Now this was done deliberately through very clever advertisement of certain subdivisions and conscious effort to keep out Negroes, and this way -- We can change the norm, that’s been true of all human history in terms of classes as well as terms of races, and sometimes all a matter of class and very little a matter of race, in some societies.
MR. WARREN: Well, I’m not fighting that battle.
MR. YOUNG: This is where -- you’re not talking about our economic situation, a classless society where everybody --
MR. WARREN: Economic and social distinctions which have nothing to do with race. This is the -- Greek situation is not a racial situation; it is a class situation. But in America it’s a race situation.
MR. YOUNG: I’m talking about the kind of situation where Ralphe Bunche is told he can’t get a hotel reservation in Atlanta, Georgia, while a drunken white man in overalls walks in and registers. Now that’s a race, that’s not class.
MR. WARREN: That’s race. That’s race.
MR. YOUNG: And that’s what we’re dealing with at this point now. When we lick this problem, you see, then maybe I’ll move into this other one, but right now I’m saying that a community can set any standard it wants to, a school kid, a neighborhood, as long as it doesn’t set a standard of race, and the Negro then should be asked to measure up and can measure up and get in it. But right now they’re saying that you can have any kind of --
MR. WARREN: We have no argument. I’m not arguing this as a point. Clearly, that is the most obvious fact, but the question is how far the race question intersects and fuses with the other considerations, right now with us. That you cannot have a solution merely in terms of race is, I’m -- the question I’m raising.
MR. YOUNG: Well, I’ve discussed this in the centennial edition of Ebony Magazine in an article, my concern about even the class situation within the Negro community, and that my concern was that we were developing a gap here, and that the choices that the Negro faced all too often was a choice either between bread and water or champagne and caviar, either sending his kids to slum ghetto inferior schools or to plush prep schools, either living in a hovel or living in a suburb. My concern is that this is creating a vacuum here and it is denying the lower class Negro of leadership potential, and it is a situation developing not so much of an attempt to escape the Negro on the part of the middle class, but an attempt to escape the ghetto, which is symbolic of a lot of other things in his society that he wants to escape. But the class problem is basically an economic problem, in America. America is not yet so cultural, so sophisticated, so esthetic; you see, when you really think of the suburbs in cities like Chicago and other places, they are inhabited by the gangsters, all white. There are some twelve suburbs in Chicago, the most fabulous suburb in Chicago, that’s all white. It has nothing to do with any kind of class, moral or cultural value at all -- it’s money.
MR. WARREN: Oh yes. How much of that split between the let’s say the Negro mass and the Negro upper-middle, upper class. Is that split wider or not than it was, say , ten years ago?
MR. YOUNG: Oh, it’s much wider.
MR. WARREN: It is wider?
MR. YOUNG: Yes, and the reason it’s wider is that the jobs are disappearing in that jobs that would put people in what would normally be a lower-middle class or an upper and lower class, are disappearing.
MR. WARREN: This is not what is said by many Negroes, of course. They deny that, what you have said. They will deny that a split was widening, they say it’s narrowing.
MR. YOUNG: Well, I’m talking about a purely economic fact of life now, that while we have more middle-class Negroes than ever before, but we have more poor people than ever before, and we have fewer people in that income class that we put them. So I’m talking sheer economics now, and the figures will show that we have more unemployment and more impoverished Negroes today than we had ten years ago. But we also have more in the middle class; so just from the economic standpoint, the gap is there.
MR. WARREN: The question is what is the spiritual gap? What is the gap in -- of a failure of identification?
MR. YOUNG: Yes.
MR. WARREN: Well, that’s the distinction I’m getting at now. I’d like to talk about that now.
END OF TAPE 1 in a Conversation with MR. WHITNEY YOUNG.
CONVERSATION 2, TAPE 2 Searchable TextCollapse
[These digitized texts are based upon 1964 typed transcripts of Robert Penn Warren’s original interviews. Errors in the original transcripts have not been corrected. To ensure accuracy, researchers should consult the audio recordings available on this site.]
MR. WARREN: Now you were going to say something about the split between lower-class Negro life and middle-upper-upper class Negro life. First, economic split; you were talking about, and now the matter of the spiritual split -- is it widening or narrowing?
MR. YOUNG: Two things are happening. On the one hand there is a greater sense of pride in race and there is a solidarity as far as goals are concerned, but there has developed and is developing this gap on an economic basis that sets up social and geographic distances; and in the North it poses another problem in that the ability to communicate and to understand common goals and make common cause was much greater in the South, where regardless of the affluence of an individual Negro or his education, he was still denied the same things that a poor Negro, so the poor Negro and the middle-class educated Negro could make common cause easily, and this brought a sense of restraint and balance and everything else to the groups seeking its rights. Now when you get to the North, because the Negro of affluence can, in most cases and increasingly so, escape in the sense that he can move away from the ghetto, he can move -- go to the theatres, he can go to the restaurants and the schools, the better schools, it makes the identification of the common cause between the lower-class Negro and the middle Negro much more difficult to identify. Now this -- what this means it that the lower-class Negro in the North can say, or at least be suspicious of the intervention of the middle-class Negro, and he makes it much more difficult, he makes him prove why he is involved in civil rights, why is he concerned about it. This means that many Negroes who aspire to get involved become discouraged because they aren’t warmly and immediately accepted by the masses, and it also means that the ambitious demagogue or rabble-rouser in the lower class is able to influence, and the masses easier and to discredit responsible leadership.
MR. WARREN: You’ve answered my question right on the tip of my tongue; the great problem of leadership that is caused by this fact, that’s the real danger, isn’t it?
MR. YOUNG: This is the real danger, especially as long as the climate is so fraught with poverty and with the type of conditions that would make demagoguery easy, as long as there’s mass unemployment, as long as there’s poor housing and all of this, this makes a natural breeding-ground, the arguments are so plentiful. Also, the Negroes have learned through observation of the southern demagogue, how he has exploited the fears and the ignorance of poor white people, using race as a factor. He watched Bilbo, he saw him, he listened to him; he saw Gene Talmadge with his red suspenders do the same; and now that Negro who’s opportunistic, he certainly uses what he has learned so well in the South, and has seen, to exploit and to capitalize on the impoverished illiterate, unemployed Negro.
MR. WARREN: Has this led to serious cracks in leadership in terms of bids for power, do you think?
MR. YOUNG: It’s made it much more difficult for responsible leadership to intervene and to get the emotional response out of the masses of Negroes -- but I think another thing in that picture is that the mass media has, either, I hope, unconsciously enough, not consciously, they have helped in the build-up of the demagogue.
MR. WARREN: I read your speech.
MR. YOUNG: Yes, and this, you see, is in effect the only person that the masses see on television, on the front pages of the newspaper speaking for their hopes and their dreams and their aspirations, is a demagogue, and this contributes to this inability or the difficulty of the responsible leader getting the confidence, and even getting the awareness of the masses that he is working in his behalf.
MR. WARREN: What do you think of the remark that one encounters now and then, that the people who should be most alarmed about Malcolm X are the Negro leaders, responsible Negro leaders, and not whites.
MR. YOUNG: No, I disagree with this. I think the people who should be most alarmed are white people, because Malcolm X is but a symptom. There are many Malcolm X’s around; there are people who have a genius for cussing out white people, and we will have many more developing. This is a symptom of an evil and a frustration and a feeling of despair and hopelessness in a society, and it seems to me that it reflects the feelings of white people. The other thing is is that white people will temporarily buy or will even find interesting and amusing, and certainly newsworthy, in Malcolm X, not because they really feel that he can mount a massive military activity against them, but because he is preaching a kind of separatism and a kind of Negro self-help and isolation which many white people find very appealing, and there is a lot of wishful thinking. What they forget is is that Hitler was able and Mussolini were able to develop great efficiency and build roads and hospitals by preaching hate, and that eventually this hate will turn against people. But I -- Negroes, per se, find Malcolm X entertaining, they get a vicarious pleasure out of hearing him curse out white people; since they’ve been kicked around all day, and they are quite amused by the way the white press and the white community seems to get aroused, and this tickles them -- how he can get front-page coverage and he can scare people and all of this, but the Negro community wouldn’t ten people follow Malcolm X to a separate state.
MR. WARREN: Not to a separate state.
MR. YOUNG: No, even if America gave him one. And Africa doesn’t want our caseload, welfare load any more than New York wants it. They want chemists and physicists and engineers, so they’re not fixing to open up their doors to impoverished Negroes in New York.
MR. WARREN: Would you say to this remark by Adam Clayton Powell, that the leadership of all the old-line organizations is finished? They have no political -- no significance anymore.
MR. YOUNG: Well, I think this --
MR. WARREN: Count the votes he says 900,000 is the biggest you could think of -- your wildest dreams. A source of votes, 12- or 14- thousand available elsewhere to other kinds of organizations and to other kinds of impulses.
MR. YOUNG: Well, I think here again Mr. Powell is reflecting in his attack on national Negro leadership, his frustration and his own inability to reach this kind of national status. He would like a great deal to be seen not as just a leader of a district here in New York City or a Harlem, leader; he would like to be seen as a national leader and he has been constantly rejected in this role, and I guess the climax to this and this is what really started this, set this thing off, was the march on Washington; when Adam Powell managed even to get in the pictures, was not called up in any major role. I think also that Adam Powell has a choice. He has to decide whether he’s going to do like the Southerner whether he’s going to keep his position in Washington by doing a daily dedicated visible work for Negroes, and make a real contribution; or whether he’s going to use the technique of the demagogue and stay in office simply by building up a straw man called the white man who’s out to get him, and he’s their great protector.
MR. WARREN: It’s very funny how discussions of him provoke in some quite responsible Negroes with great evasions, unlike your reply. That is really offers a test case of this.
MR. YOUNG: Usually they pull away on -- where they’re afraid to take him head-on.
MR. WARREN: ________ a discussion like this.
Mr. ? I’ve done it publicly and Whitney has taken ________
MR. WARREN: I know that, I know that, I know that, I’m not –
MR. YOUNG: Well, I understand the other reason. I understand the other reason, that in a war, and many Negroes conceive of thisas a war, that you should not criticize anybody who’s out cussing out white people for whatever reason, and there are a lot of Negroes who find Adam Powell again, entertaining, because he acts like white people, and this, they think, is a thing that’s upsetting white people, again. If white people didn’t attack Adam Powell so much, Negroes would not rally to his defense so much. If --
Mr. ? _______ through ________ the United States.
MR. YOUNG: Yes. But they do attack him, and as such Negroes just get defensive any time a white person who attacks a Negro.
MR. WARREN: This element’s there, this is –
MR. YOUNG: But I would like to say this: that’s example. Again, that established Negro leadership has the support when the issues really get serious and crucial, not facetious, was the march on Washington, for example, its success which was spearheaded by the established organizations through their machinery, and the failure of the stall-ins.
MR. WARREN: You think to tie those two together is not necessarily the side of the same coin?
MR. YOUNG: Yes.
MR. WARREN: I forgot to ask you that.
MR. YOUNG: You see these are the only organizations, particularly the Urban League and the NAACP that actually has the machinery in terms of local affiliates and established know how in community organization, and the basic confidence of the Negro community. You see many people did not bring their cars to New York because they were not at all sure that an Isaiah Brunson could bail them out if they got put in jail, and all this. So again, there is an emotional reaction which many reporters pick up and identify as these are the people speaking, that Negroes are following and all this; but when it gets down to meat, bread and potatoes, they show up at the Urban League office. When they really get in trouble, need a lawyer or something, they go to NAACP. But as long as it’s an entertaining evening then they’ll listen to some of this other.
MR. WARREN: Tell me this: How much liability has the white affiliation of the Urban and NAACP been, do you think?
MR. YOUNG: I think it’s made us vulnerable to certain attacks, but I would think that if it hasn’t seriously hurt us that deep down inside Negroes know that they cannot go it alone, they cannot establish their own General Motors, their own A&P chain of stores, their own chain of banks; that we are dependent, that certainly the two societies are interdependent, and the reason that I know that Negroes are never taking this type of philosophy seriously, is that none of the people who espouse it ever suggest that they themselves will withdraw from an association and all dependency on white people. Mr. Powell, for example, doesn’t withdraw from the Democratic Party; and Negroes certainly don’t dominate it; he doesn’t withdraw from Congress. And Negroes certainly don’t dominate it. He doesn’t turn down the salary that he receives from Congress -- and I’m sure Negroes pay a very small percent of it. Malcolm X and the Muslims don’t tell their Negro followers who pay them big dues, that they should quit their jobs if white people are in charge. So it’s not a consistent -- nobody says Negroes ought to move out of their houses unless they’re owned by Negroes. So that it falls down at the level of serious consideration.
MR. WARREN: What about the role of you-know, this poor fellow, the white liberal, who’s been so beaten around the ears lately by Jimmy Baldwin and some others, who’s called a plague and a nuisance and goodby to all this, what is the role of a white man in such a thing as the Negro revolt, revolution, movement or whatever you choose to call it? What is his reasonable role?
MR. YOUNG: Well, I think the role of the white liberal now is to mass a real assault on getting the Negro included in basic social reform movement of this country. You see the liberal’s role earlier was to help -- to help bring about, say, some of the social welfare measures and labor legislation, some of the things that went on during the earlier, the New Deal period of Franklin Roosevelt and all that, but when these things got established, then the labor, you see, became conservative and liberals really had nothing to hold on to, because they had not extended the social revolution to the Negro in the sense that the Negro was anymore than a partial beneficiary. He was not in the strategy of policy-making, he had not been included as a participant in the social reform. Now liberals missed a real bet, I think, when they did not immediately jump on the Urban League’s proposal for a massive Marshall Plan. This is a point at which the liberal could have intervened and been very meaningful. Instead, he let the other people call this preferential treatment, and so the Negro situation moved on in to some more extreme demands where the liberal found he could not identify. Now we’re at a point where the Negro ought to be able to say to the liberal: Look, I’m upset about the discrimination in the Labor Movement, but I know that I must not be against the labor movement. I’m upset about some other things, but I know that we have to work together on the common goals of better housing and better education and better social legislation. In turn, the liberal ought to be able to say to the Negro that I am opposed, maybe, to the activities of the Triborough bridge or the stall-ins, but I am all for these other things, and on this we must keep together.
MR. WARREN: Now here is one of the points where some Negroes want to jockey the liberal into an all-or-nothing deal. They say you’ve got to support the stall-ins, the Triborough bridge, anything else, or you’re out.
MR. YOUNG: Yes.
MR. WARREN: But that’s -- is as a tactic that is used.
Mr. ________ It’s tactic, that’s the problem.
MR. YOUNG: I’m not sure that it’s pure tactic. I think what we’re witnessing here is a new group that suddenly finds some power and strength and influence and it is able to attract mass tension and it’s a new experience to be able to want to have this kind of group solidarity and be able to through one’s weight around and be the constant source of all news stories and television, and there’s a period of sort of a tasting this and getting accustomed to it, and then I think the realization will set in shortly, after the Civil Rights Bill is passed, after the signs are down, after Mayor Wagner and the governors submit executive orders and all this, and there will be nothing technical to attack, and the Negroes will still be heard hurting at this point. If liberals are now mobilizing to address themselves to massive remedial programs, there will be a point here within the next year when they will be able to come back together again, but I think the Negro is just like you-know, same case a person just learning to walk, he’s trying out his legs and doesn’t want anybody to help him. He’s -- he’s just -- for the first time and he’s got to experience this for a while, and the liberal will have to be not just tolerant and patient, but he will have to be mobilizing now to provide this other help that the Negro’s going to need, and then when we get back to the other he will have to insist on working with the Negro and in some cases letting the Negro provide the leadership.
MR. WARREN: The Negro must provide, clearly, I should think, a fundamental leadership, his show.
MR. YOUNG: Well, that’s as far as the basic civil rights are concerned.
MR. WARREN: Yes.
MR. YOUNG: But when it comes to the basic social reforms that are needed in this country for all people, this isn’t a question of the Negro providing leadership; it’s a question of sharing in cooperative leadership of these people.
MR. WARREN: I would refer to that limited objective of civil rights.
MR. YOUNG: Yes, but you see what’s happened is, even very liberal papers like The New York Times came out and instead of grabbing hold of the Marshall Plan they again called this preferential treatment. Now at the same time, almost a few days later they applaud the Appalachian, a special effort for these people, they urge that massive help be given to Alaskans after the earthquake, they applaud a special help to the Hungarian refugees and the Cubans. But with the Negro they come back and say, no, he must be treated as an individual, not as a community.
MR. WARREN: Let’s put it this way: What’s wrong with an inclusive program? We could say that the highest percentage of the underprivileged in New York City are Negroes.
MR. YOUNG: Well -- but this is what --
MR. WARREN: ________ inclusive so that it doesn’t carry this liability which is now carries.
MR. YOUNG: Well, you see we didn’t give it -- the civil rights community, the Negro leaders did not give it this label, preferential treatment. Now if you’ll recall, this label was called --
MR. WARREN: It was put out by Stanley Lowell of the Civil Rights, of the Mayor’s Committee -- commission.
MR. YOUNG: Now what we called it was a special effort in the low income groups with the people who are especially disadvantaged -- now there are white people who live in those communities and we were thinking, as Commissioner Kepple pointed out, he said thank God for the Negro revolution; it may lift the level of education for everybody in this country. And at this point I think instead of the poor white voting for Wallace as they did in Milwaukee, he should be applauding the effort of the Negro to get some of this because he will be the greatest beneficiary of it, you see, of improved education, improved housing, for everybody.
MR. WARREN: Now this -- I know this is your view, but somewhere, something has gone askew about this, because the emphasis has gotten lost, even among people who ought to know better.
MR. YOUNG: What, I wonder, has the emphasis? Has it really gone askew or are we for the first time, as the revolution has moved to the North, as the liberal in the North is now being called upon to express his real feelings, not just in terms of indignation about lynching in Mississippi, but about people living next door to him and about people going to his schools. Are we now reaching a point where we’re just -- we’re just beginning to get what the real feelings of people happen to be and they’re coming to the surface. I know the expression, that the Triborough bridge, for example, on the part of these commuters who were being delayed twenty minutes to get to their martinis out in Westchester, that their reactions were as vile, their language was as vicious and as vulgar and as hate-filled as any language that I have ever heard in Mississippi. And the hatred on their faces and the way they threw the things out of the car at the people, would have done justice to any Klan meeting. Now on the surface we say, well, gee, this is terrible; this is too bad, but I wonder ultimately if you’re going to get at the roots of a problem and correct it, don’t you have to get at the real feelings of people, and for a while it may look ugly? But what’s happening here now is that all Americans are on trial to reveal either their great decency or their great evilness, their ugliness, if in its real form.
MR. WARREN: Do you find any truth in the speculation made by a good many Negroes in the South that the solution there, the crisis we’ve passed there long before it’s passed here, there’s more basis for a rapprochement for a working-together there than there is in, say, in the great metropolitan northern centers?
MR. YOUNG: Yes, I’m one of these people who believes that when the South really gets over this hump of having to have segregation as a crutch to compensate for their other feelings of inferiority about the economy of their system and their lack of a lot of other things, once they get over this hump and they see that they can’t keep the Negro down without keeping themselves down, there’s enough basic feeling, tone and experience between white and Negro citizens, that they will move off on a level unlike anything in the North, and there will be a much sounder relationship. You see --
MR. WARREN: Many Negroes say this.
MR. YOUNG: Well, this is --
MR. WARREN: They say the opposite too;
MR. YOUNG: I think this is based on a theory that the most vicious expression of hatred toward a person is to ignore him, is not to hate him. It takes feeling to hate, that the worst way -- the thing that destroys people, is not to hate them or to love them, but to ignore them and make of their lives meaningless. I think the average Northerner, because of the separateness, and you know there’s more segregation in housing in the North than in the South, because of the separateness, because so few whites have had contact with Negroes, that their feelings -- this is largely an intellectual feeling, it’s related to some abstract concepts of justice and equality, but they are still handicapped by a real experience with a Negro who’s a peer, who’s educated; where the average Southerner has had to deal with him. You take in New York City there’s only one Negro principal in all of New York City.
MR. WARREN: I know that. I’ve read it several times. Why is that?
MR. YOUNG: Well, they contend that there are certain standards that have been set up and that the Negroes have not been able to pass exams, that Negroes who were capable have not worked toward this goal, have not applied. This is the only city like this in the United States, and I don’t know why it’s anything unusual. I think it’s because there hasn’t been special effort made to encourage them, and if necessary to set up realistic standards. I think maybe the rest may be culturally askew astute and there’s just not been this concentrated effort.
MR. WARREN: Nathan Glazer -- I suppose whose heart’s in the right place, says that there has been no discrimination in this. It’s just a matter of the way the tests are set up and the way Negroes have just avoided them, haven’t driven for this, it’s sort of a social accident.
MR. YOUNG: Yes. Well, you see this is one of the big problems in the North, is that they pride themselves on being color blind and this they set as their goal, but it -- you cannot be color-blind today when color consciousness has been the history of the Negro in this country . And it’s not enough now to be color-blind. For a while we’ve got to be color conscious in a positive way, and I think too long New Yorkers have said “but all of our laws are right and all of our doors are open, but haven’t provided a previously deprived people with the resources to take advantage of it so that they could very comfortably open their doors and be assured that nobody would enter, and that includes the test to get to be teachers and principals. Instead of using the same skill and genius now to include them that they used to exclude them originally.
MR. WARREN: I know you oppose the quota system in hiring and in other things.
MR. YOUNG: Well, with --
MR. WARREN: How do you relate that to the other problem?
MR. YOUNG: Well, let me say I’m opposed it and – as an absolute general principle, but I would have to say as it’s offtimes being discussed today, I would have to say in the period of negotiation with a company, say, or in a housing situation, where no Negroes have been employed, or very few, that in order -- because the institutions will take one Negro and say, see, we are integrated, the Negro leader is forced to discuss numbers in order to have any meaningful integration. Well, the minute we started to discuss in numbers then people say, Oh, you’re for quotas. So I –
MR. WARREN: How do you discuss -- how do you theorize, yourself, on this apparent contradiction? You see I say apparent. I mean --
MR. YOUNG: Well, I would say that in the period of negotiation and transition, we are establishing a policy, we’re changing a practice, and just as it has been artificially arrived at to begin with, when Negroes were automatically excluded, regardless, during this period of transition, in order to assure that we are actually changing the policy, we have to do this, but I’m only talking about the initial stages. Now I would also take the position, the private position, not the public position, that quotas in certain housing projects that will assure that we will keep these integrated housing projects, is a desirable thing, quotas that would permit –
MR. WARREN: What they call benign quotas.
MR. YOUNG: Benign quotas. Now my public position has to be opposed to this, ________ has to be opposed to it because I reduce it to an individual situation where I would have moved into a neighborhood and – because I saved my money -- and then I’d say to another Negro who had saved his money and wanted to get better educated and everything for his children: “No, you have to pick out another neighborhood; this is mine”. Now I have no right to say this, and so I’m publicly opposed to quotas, per se. But I would think we could talk less about quotas and spend more time on being sure that Negroes can move everywhere -- (I’ll put it in another way) that no white can escape, then there’s no need to sell. The ________
MR. WARREN: This comes in a -- jobs, doesn’t it, definitely jobs, doesn’t it?
MR. YOUNG: Well, I suppose so. This is basic, but you can’t divorce this from a man’s being prepared and trained to work at the job or of remaining in a neighborhood where he can get that kind of preparation and training. So you can’t isolate any one -- one thing.
MR. WARREN: No, no everything is linked together, in a way. But when you actually come down to the rub of negotiation, the job is where it usually gets tough, isn’t it?
MR. YOUNG: Yes, and on this no Negro has said to me that he wants to see a white person replaced. What we are saying is this, is that we think there ought to be equal opportunity in unemployment as well as in employment, that we resent very much -- you know that we’re 25 percent or 15 percent of the unemployed, and whites are five or -- to 6, and we think that this situation ought to be changed and that’s why we’re not buying -- I’m not buying the saying that well, the problem of unemployed of Negroes will be solved only when there’s full employment for all Americans, because I know there won’t be full employment for all Americans in the foreseeable future and in the meanwhile I don’t think that we can continue to have this large number of Negroes unemployed.
MR. WARREN: No, the ratio is preposterous!
MR. YOUNG: That’s right.
END OF TAPE 2
CONVERSATION 2, TAPE 3 Searchable TextCollapse
MR. GUTWILLIG: I wanted to get back to what --
MR. WARREN: Yes, Mr. Gutwillig.
MR. GUTWILLIG: That Whitney and I have talked about before, and that is the fact that the white American, and ________ Whitney, I think will also include the white liberal is allowing itself to be diverted from the real confrontation, diverted by the Malcolm X’s and the Adam Clayton Powell’s and by the techniques or tactics of the revolution, the stall-ins, the incident of the Triborough bridge, people chaining themselves to trains, the white liberal for the first time is being confronted. And speaking as a member of that much abused minority, the white liberal, it seems to me that Whitney is right. We’re shrinking back with nervousness and fright at the fact of the confrontation.
MR. YOUNG: It’s almost as if they were desperately seeking excuses not to participate or some kind of rationale to withdraw. When you consider that only a handful of Negroes are actually participating in some of these extreme activities, this kind of blind mass indictment of the whole race of people is so illogical, and to further use that as an excuse to say not to pass the Civil Rights Bill is so illogical, because if the same standards were adopted for white people it would mean that because white people bombed little children and churches and because Oswald was white and Ruby was white, then white people shouldn’t have their civil rights, the rest of them.
MR. WARREN: This doesn’t mean that one should necessarily endorse a particular tactic or particular act or policy, though.
MR. YOUNG: No, this is a question of emphasis and focus, and at the present time there’s much more concern and expression about the acts engaged in by a few Negroes where the best judgment isn’t used than they’re about the more tragic present plight of Negro citizens produces sometimes this kind of desperate attempt. And the other thing is is that they fail to say that offtimes that it’s activities of Negroes and whites. The Triborough bridge is an example of where three educated white people and three illiterate unemployed Negroes were engaged, and yet the whole civil rights movement and all Negroes got blamed and warned. But I have some reservations about why our friends, like Senator Keating and Senator Humphrey and Mr. Javits, the President and all feel compelled to say to Negroes: You are going to be hurt, it’s not helping your cause, to warn us, to caution us about restraint. Negroes have shown more restraint than any group of people. Instead of pointing out that we must get rid of the conditions, and I would like to have seen after the stall-ins editorials that would have been commending Negroes for their good judgment and for following their leadership, and not editorials that were taunting the Negroes for an activity that fizzled.
MR. WARREN: That was bad tactics.
MR. YOUNG: Yes, they said they fizzled, and they got frightened out and it was poor organization, and that the police department was so well organized; and they never once commended Negroes for the great restraint and pointed out again to -- into the general society that this type of restraint is so commendable in the face of the great suffering. You see, what’s been happening here is that all the Negro community can see and they say this to us, is you propose the Marshall Plan to get better schools and better hospitals and better jobs and all this, and the white community says no, no, you can’t do that. And that’s preferential treatment. And the NAACP proposed shortly after that a program of mass registration and selective voting to reward your friends and punish enemies. The papers said no, no, no, you can’t do that, that’s unhealthy, that’s bloc voting. And so the stall-in comes along and they say no, no, that’s unhealthy, that’ll lead to violence. Well, all we’re hearing from the responsible white community is what we shouldn’t do and what they are against, but the problem still remains and people want to know what are they for, and so Negro leadership at this time, it isn’t enough to deplore these other things like stall-ins, it isn’t enough to applaud Negroes for having a dignified march on Washington. Negro leaders, responsible Negro leaders must be given some victories, because we stand out in the midst of unemployed people and hold up nothing. You know we’re like people in a war without ammunition – we have nothing to hold up to say because you followed this path and this course of action and showed good judgment, you now have in Harlem new schools and better teachers and principals and new housing. We don’t have anything, and I don’t know how long the white responsible community figures that it can continue to not give any victories to Negro leaders to hold up to and expect them to continue to be leaders and to influence their people.
MR. WARREN: That’s clear, I should think. Let me change the subject back to something else for a moment. Let’s cut back into history for a moment. You remember Myrdal’s theory of what would have been a good reconstruction of the South after the Civil War: First, two elements being a compensation to slave-owners for emancipated slaves, to be paid to the Federal Government. Second, expropriation of land from planters but payment for the land. Third, distribution of land to the freedmen, but -- not as a gift but a long-termed financial arrangement plus a lot of other things too. How do you react to those three things? Do you have an emotional reaction to them or _______
MR. YOUNG: I think they were very sound. I think that there was a planned procedure there that made sense, that would have tended to make the white Southerner feel that he wasn’t giving up all and getting nothing in return. I think it was realistic, as far as giving the Negro a chance to catch up. I think the tragedy was in the Tilden Compromise in that situation where he -- they withdrew the troops from the South.
MR. WARREN: That’s ten years later.
MR. YOUNG: That’s right, but that was the thing that really broke it down. I think they were still on their way until that Tilden Compromise.
MR. WARREN: Excuse me. In general, society was. There was certainly better relations than there was after.
MR. YOUNG: Well, you know the average story -- picture you get in reading the history books is that the Negroes who were serving in positions of increasing power even in the United States Senate and the Congress and all this, were illiterate, vicious people who had been put in there by the carpetbaggers to embarrass and to be vindictive toward the South. It was a way of ridiculing and all, and this just isn’t true. Many of these people were very skilful people, very able people, and as you know during that period there was no thought of the separate schools and separate restaurants.
MR. WARREN: That came very late.
MR. YOUNG: That came much later.
MR. WARREN: You don’t have any -- what I’m getting at is this, now. Either you’ve got to have no emotional resistance to those who oppose us --
MR. YOUNG: No.
MR. WARREN: This is not always true, of course. That is, some people -- white people or Negro -- we’ll say no less condoning a moral wrong, you see. Well, that’s an insult to me even when I say that you have to have the slaveholder compensated for an emancipation. This evokes some deep-seated emotional reaction sometimes, not always --
MR. YOUNG: But slavery had not been by the society at that point adjudged morally wrong. It’s like saying now that smoking, you know, is morally wrong; now that we now know that it’s harmful and will lead to an early death. It may be now, but it was not during the period.
MR. WARREN: We’re not legally wrong, anyway.
MR. YOUNG: That’s right, that’s right.
MR. WARREN: Morally it may be something quite different. Let me ask you just for a quick chip-shot view of several characters from American history: What do you think of Jefferson?
MR. YOUNG: I’m really not familiar enough with the writings --
MR. WARREN: What I’m getting at is -- about there is that here is a person who is a slaveholder, you see, the author of the Declaration of Independence. This creates some complication of feeling sometimes.
MR. YOUNG: Yes.
MR. WARREN: What about Lincoln?
MR. YOUNG: Well, I have mixed feelings about Lincoln. I’ve read both sides of Lincoln: one that he was basically disinterested in freeing of the slaves and was driven into this because it was necessary in order to save the Union, but if he could have saved the Union without freeing the slaves, that he would have done and he is purported to have said something similar to this.
MR. WARREN: He said it.
MR. YOUNG: That’s what I understand. I -- On the other hand, I’m inclined to feel that by reading this man more in depth, that he basically wanted to free the slaves, basically had real decent impulses, and if he made such a statement it was what he felt to be the political and tactical thing to do. But it’s difficult for me to believe that a man who could do and say some other things that he did do, did not have some basic repulsion to the concept of slavery, and so I’m willing to still according to this man the honors and the credit for being the emancipator.
MR. WARREN: He would say things like this too, of course, “I will say”, says Lincoln, “that I am not nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races”, and so forth. Well, that was after the Emancipation Proclamation, things like that. I mean what does it signify in terms of feelings, your feelings in regard to historical process?
MR. YOUNG: Yes, I recognize the limited contacts that the white people, any white people had with Negroes of that period, and probably they were victimized by the kind of anthropology and other things they were reading which at that point would suggest basic inferiority, and this was the framework from which they were speaking. I think it’s unfair, as it is today, for Negroes to judge Booker T. Washington in today’s context, you know, as against yesterday’s situation, and I think you’d have to judge Lincoln in the context of his climate and his contacts and his know how, and in that context I still would give him this kind of credit.
MR. WARREN: You were saying that we can’t deal with moral problems in absolute; we have to deal in terms of historical context.
MR. YOUNG: That’s right. I -- let me tell you a little story I once heard. A group of Negroes were trying to get a mayor of a certain southern city to employ Negro nurses, and after a great deal of effort he finally said, “Well, now look, I can get those nurses in there, if you will promise me you don’t care how I do it”. And they said all right. And he said, “Now don’t get angry with me when you hear anything -- when you hear how I do it”. And they said, no, we just want Negro nurses in there. Then he said publicly, he went to the hospital people and he went to the Legislature and he said, “I think it’s a doggone dirty shame that our fine white girls from nice homes and nice backgrounds have to tub and scrub and wash the private parts of these black Negroes”.
MR. WARREN: That’s a famous story.
MR. YOUNG: Yes, and they agreed with this and immediately passed a law saying that there must be Negro nurses. This is what I’m talking about. I say a part of this might well have been in Lincoln’s -- at least I’m willing to give him the benefit of it, you see.
MR. WARREN: Yes. Well, you’ve made -- you’ve clearly answered my question. What about Robert E. Lee?
MR. YOUNG: I’m not that much of a student of -- the Civil War, is something that -- the past is really something I don’t deal with too much. I should, I suppose, more.
MR. WARREN: These are very highly emotional issues, of course, to some southern people.
MR. YOUNG: Well, they’re apparently for those who find security only in the past, like the white who uses the Confederate hat and the Confederate flag and all. It’s like the adult who wants to revert back to his mother’s womb. This was the only period of security he knew in his life, when he felt adequate. I think one reverts offtimes to the past and the past’s symbols when they feel incapable of meeting the challenges of the present. I think it’s good to know something about the past including Plato and everything else, when it can be useful in dealing with the present, not as a refuge and an escape.
MR. WARREN: Let me read you a quotation from Merdahl’s (Myrdal’s) collaborator --
MR. YOUNG: Arnold Rose?
MR. WARREN: Rose, it must be Rose. Yes. “The whole tendency of the Negro history movement -- not his history but his propaganda -- has been to encourage the average Negro to escape the realities, the actual achievements and the actual failures of the present. Although the movement consciously tends to build race pride it may also cause Negroes unconsciously to recognize that group pride is built partly on delusion, and therefore may result in a devaluation of themselves for being forced to resort to such self-deception.”
MR. YOUNG: Yes, tried to point out that I thought that this group pride and solidarity was understandable --
MR. WARREN: Yes, good.
MR. YOUNG: -- at this moment and is positive as a counterbalance to the inferior feelings that the environment had caused Negroes to suspect that they had given to the -- as a result of the treatment and all the symbols and signs that suggested their inferiority, and I thought that this growing pride was to be expected as they observed a number of things happening that happened even before Montgomery and Tuskegee, and the emergence of African nations and all this. But I do think it’s temporary; I would hope that it’s temporary, because unless this new group pride and solidarity doesn’t -- which prompts this current aggressive thrust for equality, if it does not achieve this and this pride is not used by the society to accomplish true equality, then I think it can degenerate into a kind of chauvinism and nationalism and to a devaluation of the group’s ability. But I think this is left largely in the hands of the responsible white society, how it will utilize this newly found pride and not get frightened by it but see it as a positive thing to build on in terms of education of Negroes and everything else.
MR. GUTWILLIG: Whitney has a ________ he’s interested in ________ where he says this country is a problem-oriented society, that the white community sees everything in terms of problems rather than solutions. This is what he’s touched on here.
MR. YOUNG: Yes, again, we’re seeing integration, integration by too many white people is seen either as something to be abhorred and fought, resisted completely, because it will bring in its wake all kinds of problems, or either it’s seen as something that’s to be delayed until, say, the day after I die, or else it’s something to be grudgingly tolerated as if one takes castor oil, it’s inevitable, I know I’ve got to take it and it’s probably good for me but I don’t want it. And I mean this is consistent with the American inability to think deeply, and to look for easy solutions, and we are largely -- we react to crisis, we don’t benefit from past experiences. We wait for accidents to happen on a corner before we put up a green light or for the bridge to fall down before we repair it. We don’t act; we react, and again we -- a people that sees everything as a problem, not as an idea to be explored but as a problem to be dealt with and grudgingly to be met at a real personal sacrifice, and that’s why I think we’ve got to begin to think of integration not as a problem but as an opportunity for a country to prove the validity of its system, of its economic system, of its Judaic-Christian convictions, of its democratic way of life. The Negro is a barometer of the validity of all of these now, and it’s the first real test that this country has had, because in the final analysis, as Franklin Roosevelt said, the test of a country in all of these systems that I’ve mentioned is not to what extent it can give more to those who have, but to what extent it can give to those who have not; and unless this country is able to meet this challenge, then a serious question can be raised about all these institutions and its validity, because too many Americans think of -- when asked what does being an American mean, will talk about refrigerators and cars and will not talk about basic freedoms and opportunities, and this, I think, is going to -- is a real test of all that we hold very dear. If it doesn’t work for the Negro in this country, then it’s not likely to be the most appealing and attractive article for 75 percent of the world’s population that’s non-white, that’s shopping around for some way of life to adopt.
MR. WARREN: That’s clear, I think. You know I don’t want to keep you longer. There are other things I’d like to ask you but it is five o’clock and I don’t want to --
MR. YOUNG: I hope you have the basic --
MR. WARREN: Well, this is fine.
MR. YOUNG: Good.
END OF TAPE
April 29th, 1964