Page 5


the texture of jimcrow, not the formality of jimcrow. And he goes on to cite two personal experiences of his own, Baldwin does, two experiences on the basis of which he writes the indictment, not of the South, but of the North, an indictment which is so enraged, so horrified by what he considers to be our collective moral capacity that he goes on to condemn white civilization, goes on to condemn the white man’s God, goes on to question the bona fides of our civilization itself. What are they . . . what are they? Well, when he was 12 years old he was crossing the intersection in Times Square and a policeman reached out and grabbed him by the collar and said, “Nigger. get back to where you belong.” This, said he, pounds in his consciousness, and will until the day he dies. A year before he wrote this book he went at the airport of Chicago, and asked the waiter for a drink, and the waiter said, “Well, we don’t serve people here who are under 21 years old.” Baldwin is 37, called the manager, the manager apologized, ordered the waiter to serve him a drink, but, as he put it, “by that time it was too late, by that time the humiliation had been inflicted upon me.” I ask, what kind of legislation is going to prevent that policeman from doing that kind of thing, what kind of legislation is going to prevent that bartender from doing that kind of thing. Don’t we have existing in Chicago today, existing in New York today, every piece of alphabetized legislation that is being proposed for the entire South? What in fact has it done for the Negro in the [North] ? Nothing, in the opinion of one of their principal spokesmen. Rather, they seek legislation primarily, in my judgment, as an act of white atonement. Rather, they seek this in order to regularize their moral house, but they do not expect that it is going to be efficacious legislation in the sense of saving a Jimmy Baldwin of the future from having the same kind of experiences which he continues to have in cities which have had this kind of legislation for one generation or more. I am saying that the only way, in my judgement, that the lot of the Negro will substantively improve is by energetic moral work, by a kind of evangelism, of which Mr: Dugger is himself sometimes contributing very magnanimously. I personally back very ardently Martin Luther King’s bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, but I withdraw from him, and withdraw from him with some fervor when he turns around to the federal government and asks it to revise a whole series of traditional understandings about the freedom of the individual even to be mean. You tell me if you can, or Mr. Dugger, tell me if you can why a man should be free to write an invidious book, to write a book that stirs genocidal hatreds within us, which however, he is privileged to do under the First Amendment of the Constitution, and why he should not be free to exercise the meanness that is within him to dictate the laws governing the traffic within his own commercial establishment. No. I say, if we’ve got freedom, we’ve got to live with freedom, and that means freedom for people to be prejudiced, freedom for people to be mean, and that the only way to correct them in the future is by constant appeal to the lords spiritual in our society, the centers of humane learning like this one, to show the blind arrant perversity of prejudice. At the moment you try, as so many liberals constantly do, to make this simply a depressed area problem for the federal government, from that moment, in my judgement, there is a shrinkage of freedom without any concomitant relief for the Jimmy Baldwins whose plight, after all, we are here interested in. I say to Mr. Dugger from my heart, that it is my judgement that the proposed federal legislation has primarily as its psychological purpose, not helping the Negroes, because it can be so easily circumvented, just as easily, God knows more easily, in Mississippi than in Chicago, but is simply a form of self flagellation. It is an act of public masochism on the basis of which people in the North want to flout their alleged moral superiority over the people of the South. I know people in the South. . . . KISSEL: LET ME INTERRUPT just a moment and go to Mr. Dugger, who has been waiting passionately to make a reply. Dugger: Evangelically, too. Kissel: Yea, evangelically, as well. Dugger: Well, I will say that I am shocked. I never expected Mr. Buckley to use association with Harvard professors against me. I was very pleased to have that article reprinted in the Harvard publication. I am not guilty by that association of all of the attitudes ascribed to all of its writers, and yet, of course, undoubtedly share a good number of them. Now, I should like to address as quickly as I can some of the themes I think I sensed in what Mr. Buckley was saying. Mr. Buckley is clearly against the public accommodations section of the pending civil rights legislation. Now as I see that issue, it is not a simple issue, nor one easy to decide about, in fact, I remember a time three or four years ago when that question came up, when I was opposed to that legislation on grounds of the shopkeeper’s rights to run his own shop, and I think there is a very persuasive case for those rights in this situation. However, and I’m being as candid as I can on this point, we evolve in the ways we feel and the ways we think, and I have evolved on this question to a conclusion that this is really in essence a choice between two kinds of human rights, property and personal, or the rights having to do with a sense of dignity. I think one makes what is perhaps essentially a subjective judgement, and my subjective judgement is to prefer the rights having to do with the dignity of the customer rather than with the rights of the owner. Now in association with this as to the South, and as to the North, Mr. Buckley is from the North, and I and we, or most of us, or some of us, are from the South. I am not one who has contended, and’I hope you are not, that the Negro gets all his rights in the North. Nor do I find it fruitful or leading to any intelligible course of action or resolution in this matter to compare the rights of the Negro in the South and those in the North. The Southern Negro has an entirely different life which has many advantages over the Northern Negro’s life. He has very few, whereas the Northerner has relatively and apparently in some cases really more rights. He lives perhaps often in city slums which are more impersonal and rejective than his situation in the South. So this is a complicated question. This is not a regional question. This is a national question. And on the question of feeling guilty about it, I am no advocate of collective guilt. I am an advocate of, I am not an advocate, I am a practitioner of looking into myself for my very personal guilt, I find plenty of it in me on the racial question, and seek to exorcise it from myself. It does not matter to me if people in Chicago hate Negroes worse than they do in Mississippi. I want to be sure that I am proceeding as rightly as I can on this matter. Now, as to convulsion, Mr. Buckley’s word, I hasten to remind you: in a situation that is immoral, I am for moral convulsion of it ; in a situation that is immoral I am against violent convulsion of it. And I think this describes the attitudes of most reasonable people on this question. The crucial distinction between what I should advocate for the Mississippi Negro and what Mr. Buckley advocates for the Cuban peasant is the distinction between violence and non-violence. Now I am prepared to be corrected on this, but in my perusal of the National Review, perusals I enjoyed, I did come across, in the issue of Nov. 5, an editorial entitled “The Moment is Now”: “if ever a moment were favorable for a military strike, that moment is now.”this is the theme of the editorial as to Cuba. “The present moment represents, as Pedro Martinez Fraja of the Cuban Revolutionary Council puts it, ‘a God-given opportunity . . ” Now if Mr. Buckley wishes to advocate the invasion of Cuba now, let him do so; if he does not, let him say so. I am against the invasion of Cuba now. I am for the application of moral and other kinds of economic sanctions that might help the Cuban peasant get his civil liberties back. But in a time where one bomb dropped on one city, and I speak not emotions, I hope, but facts, can, according to the information we are given from the government, kill ten million human beings, we must give thought, as we have never before had to really, to the possibility of devastating war that would wipe out whole nations. If that’s the case, perhaps we need to proceed on this question of convulsions and the comparative statuses of Mississipians and Cubans with some attention to international consequences. January 10, 1964 9