Page images

"Look, baby, nobody is going to help you "but yourself"

[I]f this country has the resources to put a man on the moon,
certainly it has the resources to effectively deal with the socioeco-
nomic problems that face the minority citizens. Unfortunately, at
this time I happen to feel that the country does not have the will
to address itself to these problems.1

Many persons echoed this statement of Clifton Jeffers, a Negro attorney and president of the San Francisco-Ingleside branch of the NAACP.

The Will To Act

Throughout the hearings and open meetings Negroes and members of other racial and ethnic minorities expressed disillusionment with the white community and government at all levels and questioned America's commitment to deal with minority problems.2

Wilfred Ussery, the National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), said:

... I don't see the energy in America where, instead of putting 90 cents on the dollar in developing an airliner that will cross the country in three hours, that they put 90 cents on the dollar to buy the home for a poor black person in ... Fillmore. *** [T]he people who run this country don't have the commitment to deal with problems that affect my community in this country. Negro witnesses said they did not believe that white people view Negro problems honestly. Carl Stokes, Negro Ohio State Assemblyman and winner of the Cleveland Democratic Mayoralty primary in 1967, stated:


We have in Cleveland developed the art of "accenting the positive" to the exclusion of remedying the negatives. How difficult it is, but necessary, to advocate as a remedy the "accent of the negative." How else to strike at and endeavor to dispel the deep, almost indigenous false sense of security and accomplishment that pervades this city? * Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, pastor of the Union Methodist Church in Boston, charged:

The city has not listened. . . . Much of the energy
being expended in Boston in the area of race relations
seems to be concerned with devising ways in which to say
that there is no problem. . . .


Leaders in the Mexican American and Chinese American communities who testified at Commission hearings questioned the commitment of America to deal effectively with the problems of its minority citizens, and contended that American society is crisis-oriented and will deal with racial problems only when they erupt in violent conflict. Herman Gallegos, a Mexican American community leader in San Francisco, testified:

I regret to say that it appears that we have entered an era
where we are prepared to spend money for riots, to offset
riots or to deal with the aftermath of riots but are not
doing anything to help people to build strong family life,
to secure their education to which they are entitled under
the law. . . .


Felipe Ortiz, Southern Vice President of the Mexican American Political Association, remarked at a meeting of the California State Advisory Committee:

It is a fact that last year in San Francisco, after the Negro
uprising 700 positions [in the Post Office] were created
to pacify and alleviate the problems of employment in the
Negro community. The Civil Service examinations were
waived in the mentioned case. Yet when the Mexican
American organizations request that the same be done for
the Mexican American, the administration refused to
acknowledge that the Mexican American community was
faced with the same problems in employment.

Will we have to burn some buildings to obtain justice
from our Government? '

Rev. Larry Jack Wong, who testified about problems of the Chinese community in San Francisco, expressed a similar view:

[I]n this particular society today there seems to be a kind
of mania, a kind of an attitude that spreads around until
a group of people produces a riot, the country and the
political structure among its officials do not take a close
look and give enough attention or ... do anything about
a particular problem.

[ocr errors]


Loss of faith among minority citizens in America's commitment to deal with their grievances is reflected in testimony indicating impatience with "dialogues," studies and reports.

Edward Becks, a Negro civil rights leader who lives and works in East Palo Alto, observed:

This question of creating a dialogue seems to be almost
completely out of context, because this is where we were
20 years ago, you know, trying to create this dialogue and
it seems that maybe we were more successful at this 20
years ago than we are today, and I think that many people
in the community today just do not visualize any effort
in connecting ourselves with the greater community as
being very serious.

Linda Murray said:

I personally am not really interested right now in human
relations and human dialogues between the races. . . .
What I am interested in now, is in seeing that everybody
can eat and that they can get clothes and a decent educa-
tion and this is what we need to be working on and not
dialogue groups.


Some witnesses questioned the motives of people conducting surveys and studies, especially those who were termed "professional hustlers"-students, professors or government officials who spend varying amounts of time in slums and then write books or reports about their experiences. Mr. Luster commented:

We are constantly having the professional hustle off of
our ghettos and we are tired of it, and I think this is where
the government has wasted millions and millions of dol-
lars and has continued to do this and the people never get
this money. And the only thing we get is a tremendous
amount of beautiful reports that are not even read."

Asked whether his community receives any assistance from Stanford University in solving its school problems, Mr. Becks replied:



[Wle do get a lot of people... looking into our noses, ears and eyes and listening to us and tape recording what we say and we never see the benefit of what they do. Mr. Comfort commented on the Commission's hearing in Oakland: Like it's nice of you ladies and gentlemen to come down and set up the Civil Rights Commission and the hearings, but it's too bad you don't have the power to do anything about it. But you put in more statistics and that is where it goes. You spend more money on statistics than on solving the problem.13

John Serrato, Community Coordinator of the Youth Training and
Employment Project in Los Angeles County, told the California State
Advisory Committee:

I seriously doubt, ladies and gentlemen, that you're going
to do a damn thing for us. That's right! Now, you just
examine your own conscience, because when you leave
this place, with the exception of one or two here on this
panel, you're going to smoke your big cigar, sit down and
drink your coffee and say, "Well, yeah, we sure talked to
those Mexicans over there." But that's going to end right

We've gone to the Fair Employment Practice Commission
with complaints. They've told us, "Yes, we're going to
look into it." Man! They must think the complaint is in
Mars because they've been looking for as long as four years
and nothing has happened yet."

At the conclusion of an open meeting of the Commission's New York State Advisory Committee in New York City, the committee chairman observed:

[T]he Negro community regards any new investigations,
meetings, or hearings with cynicism, if not hostility, and
with a disheartening lack of faith that such additional in-
vestigations will be more meaningful or productive than
those which have been conducted in the past.


Militancy in Minority Communities

Many witnesses testified about increasing militancy among Negro youth. James Richards told the Commission:


They [Negro youth] can't sit back and believe everything

they've been told that things are going to get better be-
cause things aren't getting better. Things are getting
worse and children that grew up in a poor area in this
generation and getting more sophisticated of what is
going on around them [and they] are going to let
know. . . .


Clifton Jeffers explained that Negro youth are

[ocr errors]


developing attitudes which seem to say: "That if this
society is such that I cannot obtain gainful employment,
then I am inclined to pursue that course of action which,
in my opinion, will contribute to a downfall, a deteriora-
tion, a destruction of that society that denies me the
opportunity of employment."

I think we find that expressed in a number of areas in
increasing numbers. We note the formation of varied and
numerous black nationalist oriented organizations and I
think that is a reflection, an outgrowth of the frustration
that the young people face today.18

Asked if a significant number of people share this feeling, Mr. Jeffers replied: "I think there is a significant group of people who feel that way and, unfortunately, I think the numbers are growing."


Speaking of the militancy and impatience of Spanish youth, Mr. Gallegos said: "The younger people are becoming very impatient with those of us who are somehow looked upon as leaders by the establishment, because we have been unable to bring about changes fast enough." 20 The militancy and alienation of many members of the Mexican American community was made very apparent at the Commission hearing in San Francisco. Several witnesses subpenaed to appear before the Commission refused to testify and walked out of the hearing in protest against policies of the Federal Government.

Like Mr. Jeffers, other witnesses interpreted the new militancy in minority communities as an outgrowth of disillusionment and frustration. Wilfred Ussery said:

... I have to say that [increased militancy] comes out of
a sense of awareness that the usual kinds of tools that one
has dealt with are inadequate to deal with the problem.

« PreviousContinue »