Page images

decent home in a suitable living environment for all American families, the Federal Government has not met the housing needs of the great majority of low and moderate income families and has often acquiesced in the decisions of local authorities to locate publicly assisted housing only in tightly restricted areas of the ghetto. Moreover, the discriminatory practices of real estate brokers, builders, and mortgage lenders, unrestrained by any effective Government regulation, continue to confine Negroes of all income levels to ghetto areas and to restrict the housing market in ways which facilitate exploitation.

The response of Government to deprivation and discrimination has raised expectations, but has too often been characterized by an inadequate commitment of resources and by acquiescence in, or failure to deal effectively with, practices of segregation and confinement. In addition, the goals of social and economic legislation often have been thwarted by self-defeating rules and regulations. Thus, for example, most Negro citizens would welcome welfare programs which offered not a “dole,” but assistance which would achieve the program's stated purpose-to promote economic independence and family stability. Instead, welfare programs have been devised and administered in a manner which tends to break up families and perpetuate dependency. Critical decisions are often made by officials far removed from the scene and the persons most intimately involved are generally not permitted to participate in planning their own affairs and futures.

Underlying these private and public actions have been attitudes within the white majority—attitudes based on fear, on racial prejudice, and on a desire for status. While many of these attitudes are not overtly expressed, they are nonetheless real and effective. They have been accompanied by a lack of concern for and a failure to become involved in the problems of the slums.

It is in the context of great frustrations, of laws and programs which promise but do not deliver, of continued deprivation, discrimination and prejudice in a society increasingly prosperous, that the increasing alienation and the disorders of recent months must be viewed. Despite the great destructiveness of recent urban riots, mainly to people and property in the ghetto itself, relatively few people have been involved. But the general public should come to understand that the riots are only the violent manifestations of feelings of anger and despair which are much more widely shared. Reacting to continued rejection and to doors which do not open even after years of patient waiting, increasing numbers of Negro citizens are rejecting white America. The failure of State, local and Federal governments to respond to the efforts of moderate Negro leaders is causing increasing numbers of Negroes to

despair of moderate methods and of moderate leadership and to favor a separatist course.

The expressions of these feelings, often lumped together under the heading of "black power," are varied. Some expressions, particularly those which help to build a sense of dignity and pride and which stimulate community participation, may be constructive; others, such as riots or violence, can only be destructive of what little has been achieved so far. But even the most constructive efforts by Negroes are not likely to reduce materially the deeply held feelings of frustration and anger, or to improve the sad state of race relations in this country, until Americans generally make a massive commitment to strike at the underlying causes-poverty and segregation.

The problems of our cities and the people who live in them will not be resolved by a search for culprits or conspirators, or for solutions which do not cost money or effort. Nor can it justly be argued that remedies for the discrimination suffered by the millions of Americans who live in slum ghettos should be deferred on the ground that to do otherwise would be to reward violence. Violators of the law must be punished. But it would be a cruel paradox if after years of failing to reward patience or redress injustice, we were to use such violations by a few as an excuse for continued inaction on the problems which affect so many, and involve us all.

The problems of race and poverty which we face today cannot be resolved unless their solutions are made the Nation's first priority. The Nation may continue to struggle with the problems which inevitably arise when we are divided into separate, unequal and alien groupseither torn by violence or co-existing in an uneasy peace purchased at the cost of repressive action. Or we can all together make the commitment which will redeem our promises and ideals by opening the doors of the ghetto so that Negroes and other minority groups can become full participants in American society, with a truly equal opportunity for all.


Footnotes to Chapter 1.


Hearing Before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, San Francisco, Calif., May 1-3, 1967, and Oakland, Calif., May 4–6, 1967 at 284 [hereinafter cited as Bay Area Hearing].

2 Id. at 283-84.

3 Id. at 284. Piri Thomas, a Puerto Rican author who lives in East Harlem, described the reaction of Puerto Rican youth rioting in East Harlem:

On 105th Street, in one of the big department stores, I saw two young Puerto
Ricans smash all the front windows in, making no attempt to loot, but rather,
methodically, with sticks in their hands that were longer by three feet than the
policeman's night stick, smash with all their fury the heads of the mannequins and
then stand inside the store and look out at the crowd almost as if to say, 'World,
we are not mannequins, we are human beings.' N.Y. Times Magazine, Aug. 13,
1967, at 76, col. 4-5.

* Massachusetts State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, The Voice of the Ghetto, Report on Two Boston Neighborhood Meetings 7 (1967) [hereinafter cited as Voice of the Ghetto].


Proceedings Before the Indiana State Advisory Committee to the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights in Gary, Ind., Feb. 8, 1966 at 42 [hereinafter cited as Gary Transcript].

• Id. at 41-42.

7 For a study of the "pathology of the Negro ghetto," see Kenneth B. Clark, Dark Ghetto (1965), an analysis of "... what happens to human beings who are confined to depressed areas and whose access to the normal channels of economic mobility and opportunity is blocked" (Introduction to an Epilogue, p. xxii). Dr. Clark's view of the Negro ghetto (as compared to white urban slums) reflects that of witnesses quoted in this chapter: "The Negro believes himself to be closely confined to the pervasive low status of the ghetto, and in fact usually is”—while white poor persons believe that they can "rise economically and escape from the slums" (id.). Therefore, according to Dr. Clark, studies of urban areas or of the Negro in general do not necessarily cast light on the problems of the Negro ghetto.

8 Bay Area Hearing at 53.

9 Gary Transcript at 29. Others also have characterized ghettos as traps: The dependently poor in California tend increasingly to be trapped in their poverty, concentrated among definable groups and insulated from the rest of the community in what the analysts refer to as the "Trap Ghetto." Distinguished from the earlier immigrant ghetto of American cities by its "closed circle" character.

it is described [as] "Growing concentrations of depressed immigrants to the city
who are caught in a closed circle formed by low economic status, low educational
status, low levels of employment opportunity and limited social contact. The
spiral upward and outward necessarily becomes a trickling affair." California
Welfare Study Commission, Final Report 127 (1963).

See also Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, Metropolitan America: Challenge to Federalism, a study submitted by the Commission to the Intergovernmental Relations Subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations, 89th Cong., 2d Sess. 4 (1966) for a discussion of the selfreinforcing character of Negro ghettos.


Gary Transcript at 29. George and Eunice Grier in Equality and Beyond 45-46 (1966) pointed out that the geographical concentration of persons who have been denied equal opportunity intensifies the effect of such denials:

It is not easy to eliminate the accumulated ill effects of denying equal opportunity
to Negroes in the areas of education and work. It is even harder to deal with such
problems when their victims are so concentrated geographically that the resulting
demoralization and social difficulties become self-reinforcing . .

11 Voice of the Ghetto at 6.

12 The hopelessness of many slum residents who are unemployed and on welfare was discussed in The California Governor's Commission on the Los Angeles Riots report, Violence in the City—An End Or A Beginning? 38 (1965) [hereinafter cited as McCone Commission Report]:

Many witnesses have described to us, dramatically and we believe honestly, the
overwhelming hopelessness that comes when a man's efforts to find a job come to
naught. Invariably, there is despair and a deep resentment of a society which he
feels has turned its back upon him. Welfare does not change this. It provides the
necessities of life, but adds nothing to a man's stature, nor relieves the frustrations
that grow. In short, the price for public assistance is loss of human dignity.

18 Bay Area Hearing at 51.

14 Id. at 41.

15 Bay Area Hearing at 227.

16 The isolation of the poor, particularly of Negro poor, was noted by the California Welfare Study Commission:

The modern ghetto effectively cuts off its inhabitants from participation in the
society around them. When it is a color ghetto as well, the cutting off is that much
more severe. Since the aspirations of ghetto dwellers are, by and large, the same
as those of the rest of society, they are fully conscious of having been cut off.
Since their natural capacities and talents are, man for man, the same as those of
the rest of society, they are bitter. It is inevitable, therefore, that a sense of
alienation is bred which weakens any sense of "belonging" to the larger com-
munity. California Welfare Study Commission, supra note 9 at 129.

17 Voice of the Ghetto at 8.

18 Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Inc., Youth in the Ghetto: A Study of the Consequences of Powerlessness and a Blueprint for Change (1964) has a chapter at 313-350, entitled "Cries of Harlem," a compilation of statements by residents of that ghetto. The authors of the report summarize that chapter: "The statistical facts about Central Harlem present a picture of despair, hopelessness, and futility. These facts have been known for a long time. What the bare facts about life in Harlem fail to reveal, however, are the human anguish and sense of powerlessness that lie behind them."

19 Voice of the Ghetto at 5.

20 Bay Area Hearing at 469–70. The Tennessee State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in its report Housing and Urban Renewal in the Nashville-Davidson County Metropolitan Area 32 (1967) [hereinafter cited as Tennessee Housing Report], found that “residents of affected neighborhoods are inadequately represented on the boards or agencies authorized to alter the conditions of their neighborhoods."

In Cleveland, Rev. Younger, speaking of the "managed life of the poor", stated:

On every hand the poor-both as individual and as neighborhood—finds his life
not his own. This is true of most of us in interdependent relationships as we live,
but for the poor, it comes to the point that nothing you can do can be your own.
This is why, by the way, the poor refuse to move into public housing because
there the director has a passkey and can come in so even their bedroom is not
their own. May I say that this is true of Welfare clients too, through the inspector
system and night raids. What can we do to end managed life for the poor and
provide a degree of freedom? Hearing Before the U.S. Commission on Civil
Rights, Cleveland, Ohio, April 1–7, 1966 at 635 [hereinafter cited as Cleveland

[blocks in formation]

28 Cleveland Hearing at 283. The influence of parental unemployment on children was noted in the McCone Commission Report at 38–39.

Thus, a chain reaction takes place. The despair and disillusionment of the un-
employed parent is passed down to the children. The example of failure is vividly
present and the parent's frustration and habits become the children's. (“Go to
school for what?" one youngster said to us.)

Another author described the same phenomenon more dramatically:

The children of these disillusioned colored pioneers [migrants from the south to
northern cities] inherited the total lot of their parents-the disappointments, the
anger. To add to their misery, they had little hope of deliverance. For where
does one run to when he's already in the promised land? Claude Brown,
Manchild in the Promised Land viii (1965).

29 Cleveland Hearing at 354.

30 Gary Transcript at 74. Mary Frances Greene and Orletta Ryan in The School Children: Growing Up in the Slums 81 (1965) quote the comments of children in a Harlem public school on the addicts in their neighborhood:

About ten hangs out on my block. My super keep them moving in our hall. We
live on the first floor, my mom got a police lock on our door. But it's scary. They
call in soft through the keyhole when my mom be out.

My mother don't answer that door at night. She says Who's there? but don't
open it. And she keeps that can of lye by the door.

In The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society, a Report by the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice 62 (1967) [hereinafter cited as Challenge], the following statements about their neighborhoods were made by children who lived in slums:

"There are a whole lot of winos who hang around back in the alley there. Men
who drink and lay around there dirty, smell bad. Cook stuff maybe. Chase

« PreviousContinue »