A Reply to Critics

A Reply to Critics

Of my two opponents, Mr. Tumin has put himself outside the scope of discussion and discourse through the tone he adopted in his rebuttal. Mr. Spiti s argument, on the contrary, would deserve a point-by-point analysis if it constituted a refutation of my position. Unfortunately, despite his fairness and the consistency of his own position, Mr. Spitz has misunderstood and misconstrued my argument to such an extent that I would have to quote and requote from our articles sentence after sentence, not to answer his rebuttal, but only in order to correct the misunderstandings upon which this rebuttal was based. This would be tedious and space-consuming, and still could not result in anything better than a restatement of my original argument. I therefore prefer to take my cue from the simple fact that my article was not understood in the terms I wrote it, and I shall try to repeat its essential points on a different, less theoretical level.

The point of departure of my reflections was a picture in the newspapers, showing a Negro girl on her way home from a newly integrated school; she was persecuted by a mob of white children, protected by a white friend of her father, and her face bore eloquent witness to the obvious fact that she was not precisely happy. The picture showed the situation in a nutshell because those who appeared in it were directly affected by the Federal Court order, the children themselves. My first question was: what would I do if I were a Negro mother? The answer: under no circumstances would I expose my child to conditions which made it appear as though it wanted to push its way into a group where it was not wanted. Psychologically, the situation of being unwanted (a typically social predicament) is more difficult to bear than outright persecution (a political predicament) because personal pride is involved. By pride, I do not mean anything like being “proud of being a Negro,” or a Jew, or a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, etc., but that untaught and natural feeling of identity with whatever we happen to be by the accident of birth. Pride, which does not compare and knows neither inferiority nor superiority complexes, is indispensable for personal integrity, and it is lost not so much by persecution as by pushing, or rather being pushed into pushing, one’s way out of one group and into another. If I were a Negro mother in the South, I would feel that the Supreme Court ruling, unwillingly but unavoidably, has put my child into a more humiliating position than it had been in before.

Moreover, if I were a Negro I would feel that the very attempt to start desegregation in education and in schools had not only, and very unfairly, shifted the burden of responsibility from the shoulders of adults to those of children. I would in addition be convinced that there is an implication in the whole enterprise of trying to avoid the real issue. The real issue is equality before the law of the country, and equali...

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