Exploring Future of Racial Harmony- Cultural Level

DePaul University | April 25, 1956

A totally segregated society, of course, is inconceivable. It would suppose that we could have two governments, two educational systems, two hospital systems, even two Popes! To avoid such absurdities, LEGISLATION, such as the Fair Employment Practices Act, has been adopted in some States, and now there is the Supreme Court decision. But, irrespective of the merits or demerits of these LEGAL attempts to reduce discrimination, the only JUST, FUNDAMENTAL and PERMANENT GREEDY is the practice of INTERRACIAL JUSTICE AND CHARITY.

No subject is more controversial than the topic of race relations, interracial justice, segregation. Call it what you will, this subject of racial discrimination arouses hotter passions than any other in America today. My first thought, therefore, is this: I am NOT here to arouse passion, excite enmities, or plead for doctrinaire solutions to complex human problems. I’m here to plead for CHARITY, and patience, for hope and GOOD WILL.

Secondly, I think the air would be cleared, so to speak, if we admitted to ourselves that we ARE ALL PREJUDICED, at least a little bit. Most honest persons, and ALL THEOLOGIANS, I believe, AGREE that every human being is prejudiced. Except for the GREAT SAINTS, who have rooted out all sin from their lives, prejudice is a part of all of us, an ASPECT OF ORGININAL SIN. In fact, prejudice WITHIN LIMINIATIONS is normal. It is dangerous, like liquor or any other vice, only when it comes to dominate a person, causing aggression and unfair discrimination against others.

The THIRD point I’d like to make can be expressed best by quoting from Cardinal Stritch. His Eminences said this: “…The word Catholic in the church means NOT ONLY ITS UNIVERSALITY. By nationality, the early church was JEWISH and by providence, ROMAN- but the universality of the church means… THE CHURCH WAS SENT AS CHRIST WAS SENT. Divine truth is all embracing and every man should have the opportunity to live in the Church. There is no distinction between GREEK or HEBREW… Each group has its own cultural contributions to make the whole. Each group is of the whole, and CHARITY must bind them were JUSTICE has failed.”

Let us then, if you will, AGREE ON THESE THREE POINTS:

1. We are ALL PREJUDICED, and we have a moral responsibility to rid ourselves, so far as we can, of this weakness arising from original sin.

2. We are NOT here today to obtain some 50-cent, patent-medicine-type of easy solution to interracial problems, but rather to promote charity and understanding of an intricate sociological problem.

3. Paraphrasing the words of the Cardinal, let us admit that just as Christ was sent, just as His Church was sent, WE are sent, into the world to remake that world in a Christ-like pattern.

It may be profitable, therefore, to sketch the KIND OF WORLD into which we are sent, especially the situation of the various races and problems within our modern society.

It has become almost a platitude to remark that the world is caught up in one of the most fearsome crises in history. Totalitarian Communism is pitted against Christian Democracy in a struggle not only for geographical territory, but more important, for THE MINDS AND SOULS OF FREE MEN. Communism stands for everything we abhor. Not only is it Godless, ruthless and materialistic- but it also rejects freedom of speech, of press, of religion, and freedom of opportunity.

We as Christians and Jews, believe in the rights of EVERY MAN, regardless of color, or creed, to better himself, and to have equal opportunities in improving himself. We believe that one’s right to improve himself on the economic scale should be based on one’s ability and character, not on accidental factors such as the color of one’s skin. We even teach our children the “Golden Rule”- ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’

Still, the cold fact remains that the COMMUNISTS INCREASE THEIR RANKS, and their territorial gains every day. Why is this? We blame inept foreign policies. We cite Potsdam and Yalta. We continue to search for political alternatives to “The Cold War”. BUT IS IT NOT POSSIBLE THAT THE COMMUNISTS GAINS are due to the FAILURES OF OUR CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATIC world?

“Communism is an EFFECT not a CAUSE”. Great as the achievements of the Western world have been, they are matched by our FAILURES. These failures of the West have created VOIDS in millions of SOULS, as well as STOMACHS. Into this spiritual emptiness Communism rushes, and it will never be withstood until we fill the SPIRITUAL as well as the ECONOMIC NEEDS of all men. Created by the absence of love and charity and justice, this emptiness and frustration in the SOULS of men can be filled only by a Christian charity PERCEPTIVE enough to admit its existence and HEROIC enough to supply an abundance of love to fill those unhappy depths.

LET'S RECALL A FUN FACT:

First, 2/3 of the world’s population belong to NON-WHITE races.

Secondly, the overwhelming number of people uncommitted either to democracy or Communism are COLORED people. In other words, these colored people constitute the balance of power in the current struggle for survival.

From simple ARITHMETIC, we can deduce the necessity, then, of winning to our democratic side the majority of these people. And from simple PSYCHOLOGY, it is clear, we CANNOT “gain friends and influence people” by thinking and acting as if they were INFERIOR to us.

SEGREGATION implies that the people of a minority group can be told where they can or cannot live, eat work, to go to SCHOOL and even PRAY. Until a few months ago, a Negro could ride on a train, but the ticket windows and waiting rooms were segregated. He could ride in elevators next to the whites, but he could not sit with them on busses. He could attend graduate universities, but not undergraduate schools.

It is common knowledge that segregated persons must pay HIGHER PRICES for the basic essentials of life, such as living quarters, and the food they eat. They are admitted only to MENIAL jobs, and receive LESS PAY. The economic cost of segregation is high. There is frequent DUPLICATION of school and hospital facilities. DISEASE and CRIME rates are the highest in such segregated over-crowded slum areas. POLICE and FIRE protection costs rise. The ENTIRE CITIZENRY suffers.

A totally segregated society, of course, is inconceivable. It would suppose that we could have two governments, two educational systems, two hospital systems, even two Popes! To avoid such absurdities, LEGISLATION, such as the Fair Employment Practices Act, has been adopted in some States, and now there is the Supreme Court decision. But, irrespective of the merits or demerits of these LEGAL attempts to reduce discrimination, the only JUST, FUNDAMENTAL and PERMANENT GREEDY is the practice of INTERRACIAL JUSTICE AND CHARITY.

I think it is heartening that the Catholic Church has been one of the leaders in promoting interracial justice. Perhaps those of you who were here last week will remember that Mr. Turner mentioned the work being done by the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago. I’d like to amplify what he said, and tell you a little of what this particular group is doing.

The Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago we founded in 1946 as a non-profit, educational agency, by a small group of Catholic laymen, with the help of Father LaFarge, who was the founder of the first Catholic Interracial Council in NYC. During the period 1946 through 1951, the Council’s main work consisted in forming poster contests and essay contests among the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. Later, during the Cicero riots, a West Suburban division was formed. Finally, in 1952, the Council hired a permanent executive secretary and began its first large expansion of activities.

Since that time, the success of the Council has been phenomenal. Working through 5 principle committees: Finance, Schools, Membership, Special Events, and Community Affairs, the extent of the Council’s influence can be illustrated by a brief description of the work carried on by just ONE of these 5 committees.

The schools committee, for example, in 4 years, has enlisted the support and cooperation of 79 Catholic high schools in our archdiocese. These schools are subdivided geographically into 7 sections, which carry out projects designed for specific neighborhoods. All together, over 100 specific programs devoted to the task of developing better human relations and interracial justice and charity were held last year by the High School Division alone.

The High School Division sponsors its own student publication. It has a wire service direct to the editors of the Catholic high school newspapers. Last year, 150 high school students completed a 6 week special course in developing leadership skills. Weekend conferences and Communion Breakfasts are held throughout the year. 250 students and faculty members attended the Annual Summation Day this year, at which time the members evaluated the work of the various sections. 850 students and 150 faculty members were present at the Fourth Interracial Study Day, at which the principal speaker was Cardinal Tien, Archbishop of Peking, China.

On the grade school level, 10,000 students in 490 Catholic schools of the Archdiocese participated in the Annual Essay and Poster Contest. Cash prizes were awarded to the winners, and the posters were displayed in the art gallery of the Chicago Tribune Tower. The exhibit was officially opened by the “Mariners”, the ringing group of the Arthur Godfrey Show. Special spot announcements and periodic account of the exhibit were made over Station WGN, and in the pages of the Chicago Tribune.

At the college level, the schools committee has organized a program embracing 24 Catholic colleges in 5 Mid-Western states. The newest unit was established at the University of Notre Dame this fall. There the Club’s purpose is promoting better social relations between students of all nationalities and races. Over the Christmas holidays, for example, every foreign student on the Notre Dame campus was besieged with invitations to spend the holidays at some other student’s home. Not only does the Club want to improve Negro-White relations, but it has also taken on the job or orienting foreign-born students to American ways.

Another Sub-Committee of the schools committee is called Pilot Workshops. Still another Sub-Committee deals with Scholarship Aid. To date, the Council has 6 students attending Catholic high schools on 4-year scholarships. Because of the tremendous financial success of the recent Harry Belafonte Concert, many more students will be able to attend Catholic high schools on such scholarships next year.

The general program of the Interracial Council, which in 1955 published a newsletter, which had a circulation of 4,000, strengthened these activities of the schools committee. In the same year, over 100,000 pieces of literature were distributed. 98 complaints of discrimination, which were referred to it by both public and private agencies, were investigated. 157 speaking engagements were filled and more than 1,000 man-hours devoted to the Trumbull Park situation.

Unfortunately, a dry recitation such as this of some of the activities of an organization like the Catholic Interracial Council, fails to convey its spirit and the convections of the approximately 40 lay people who form its board of directions. Perhaps His Eminence, Cardinal Stritch, mentions the most important point of all when he said, and I quote:

“What a blessing it is for a Bishop to have a group like this to help Him in His work. I look upon you as one of the groups of lay apostles whom God in His goodness has gathered about me. I thank you for what you are doing to help me. I have always had a realization that I need you.”

In carrying forward Cardinal Stritch’s mandate to end this “ugly thing, unfair discrimination- which is not Christian and cannot be Catholic” the Council believes that education, and the practice of religious principles, are the most effective means of creating a new climate, and of molding new men.

This the Council attempts to do in whatever ways it can. But great as it work has been, to surface has only been scratched. Ignorance of elementary Christian principles, on the one hand; and ignorance of sociological and historical facts on the other hand, are still prevalent. The Interracial Council is doing what it can to meet these problems, but alone it is not completely effective.

It not only needs the help of individual citizens, and students like yourselves, but it needs the support of other outstanding groups- organizations such as the Anti B’Hai Brith, and the National Council of Christians and Jews. Both of these groups have made really outstanding contributions in Chicago, and nationwide, to the curtailment of racial prejudice. It is no secret, of course, that such prejudice is not restricted to the relationships of the Negro and white people, but affects the Jews, the Mexicans, Japanese and Puerto Ricans.

Our own Chicago has experience riots created by animosities between the Irish and Slavs, between Swedes and Jews- and between racial elements of many other nations. So we should not at any time confine our attention to the most difficult current problem involving only the Negro, but we should all, in so far as we can, endeavor to create better human relationships among person of all backgrounds.

Sometime ago, a full-page advertisement appeared in a national magazine. It was singularly striking, for it was not a plea to buy anything. The page was headed by the simple phrases: “America on its knees… not beaten there by hammer & sickle, but freely, intelligently, responsibly, confidently… America now knows it can destroy Communism and win the battle for peace. We need fear nothing or no one, except God. Our Father is heaven: we pray that you save us from ourselves. The world that you have made for us to live in peace, we have made into an armed camp. We have turned from you to go our selfish way. Inspire us with wisdom, all of us of every color and race, to use our wealth, our strength, to help our brother, instead of destroying him.”

Everyone who professes to believe in the Fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man, and certainly one who lives the tenets of Catholicism, has the source of inspiration and strength and the impelling motives to help his fellow man. In the last analysis, the solution to this problem is a spiritual one, the putting of Christ’s principles to work.

In putting these principles to work, there is no place like home, right here in Chicago. The opportunities here are great, the need is even greater. In this hour of decision involving matters of worldwide importance, let us remember once again the thought of His Eminence, our own distinguished Cardinal: “Christ was sent, and He sent His Church, and His Church in turns sends us.”