After the Prologue, A Failure of Will Larry Goodwyn December 27Selma The Selma Times Journal carried a Sunday column, “Sensing the News,” by Thurman Sensing: “I like the word conservative. Conservatism is patriotism. . . . A liberal, on the other hand believes that there is nothing in the past worth conserving . . .” Earlier Sensing had defined his terms: “the liberalsthat is to say, the blood brothers of the socialists and Communist accommodators . . .” December 28 Montgomery Martin Luther King, Jr., came to town for a speech. His arrival was not mentioned by the Montgomery Advertiser, although there is a page marked “Negro News,” usually one column, including ads. It was in Montgomery nine years ago that King, the winner of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, first gained renown for his leadership of a mass boycott of segregated city bus lines. On the sports page of the Montgomery Advertiser : “There were muffled reports . . . that the Blue-Gray All-Star football game will lower its racial barrier soon in order to restore the contest’s prestige.” \(The North-South game lost its NBC contract last year when game officials told the network they had no intention of alDecember 29 Montgomery At the best theater downtown a lone Negro man, ignored by a crowd of whites, enjoyed a Jerry Lewis comedy. The Greyhound station was completely integrated, waiting room, lunch counter, and restroom. In the Trailways station there was a scene straight out of a propaganda movie. Most of the Negroes were in a .small waiting room. In the main room one slender, spectacled black youth had his hat pulled low and was reading a book, ignoring two dirty, unshaven, badly dressed white men nearby. The old man seemed too ill or drunk to move, but the large middle-aged one was talking in loud, heedless tones: “I’m tellin’ yuh . fer the las’ time. The fed’ral gov’ment don’ run Alerbamer.” Sensing my keen interest, he stopped. The Negro youth appeared to read on, ignoring us both. December 30 Greenville Billboard motto, “The Camelia City.” With some annoyance the service station owner explained the restroom keys when I picked up Number 3. “That one is niggers. Number 2 is men’s and number 1 is ladies.” The locked doors are merely numbered. “Of course other stations do this,” he said. December 31, 1964 “Camden, 40 miles” the sign said. The Negro hitchhiker, whose old Eisenhower jacket and age marked him as a World War II veteran, didn’t lift his thumb. I stopped anyway. He started toward the car. Paused. Looked at the tag. Paused again. He got in. I asked, after a cigarette, “Why did you start not to get in?” “I thought that tag was from Mississippi. Then I seen it was from Texas and I knowed you was all right.” Crisis in Black and White, By Charles E. Silberman, Random House, $5.95. Austin In the intellectual war to storm the redoubts of 20th Century American racism, the attacking columns are displaying a bewildering assortment of offensive techniques. The ground had been well prepared by barrages laid down in scholarly precision by Gunnar Myrdal and Mohandas K. Gandhi and recruiting posters fashioned by such compelling advocates as W. E. B. DuBois and C. Vann Woodward \(The Strange Career of Jim But once the flag had been unfurled by the Supreme Court in 1954 and first skirmishers thrown out in the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-’56, the ordering of tactics became an impassioned internal conflict as battle captains and technical advisers competed for positions on the general staff. Lacking a consensus, the partisans of diverse means of attack have proceeded to fling themselves into the fray. Cavalry raiders got in their licks early \(Freedom Ride, which produced the tough young shock troops of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee \(The New Abolitionists, their elders became kamikazes \(Negroes With Guns, others advanced in the calm well-ordered infantry assaults of the Urban League \(To Be Equal, obsolescent mortar shots -have been lobbed from within the well-padded bastions of northern university circles \(Fire Bell in the Night, telling stuff launched from more exposed positions in Southern academia \(Mississippi: The Closed Society, There have been informative commentaries by foreign observers \(Black Nationalism, sons \(The Negro Revolt, And there have even been occasional lone dive bombers popping out of the mists of the American left \(My People Is The Enemy, by William Stringfellow; The New Equality, some of the warriors have wandered into rear areas in search of medieval armorplate, as in Simeon Booker’s sad little retreat in defense of the middle-class psyche From time to time, friends, foes and uncommitted civilians receive intelligence reports from the battlefield \(The Negro Revolution, by polltrenches are being bombarded with various kinds of psychological warfare, conceived in moral indignation \(Why We Can’t Wait, \(The Fire Next Time, The most impressive recent entry in the order of battle is Crisis in Black and White, by Charles Silberman. A Fortune Magazine editor turned journalist-scholar, Silberman is the new General Sir Bernard Montgomery of the civil rights movement: The British military commander of World War II was noted for his elaborately detailed preparations; when he struck, he struck with overwhelming strength. So, too, does Silberman proceed to make his casewith authority and with style. And, like Montgomery, he bludgeons almost as many allies as enemies. This is his opening paragraph: “This book is addressed to my fellow Americans, both black and white. It will, I hope, offend and anger both groups, for it is impossible to tell the truth about race relations in the United States without offending and angering men of both colors. The truth is too terrible, on both sides, and we are all to accustomed to the veil of half truths with which black men and white men cloak the subject. Neither white nor Negro Americans have been willing to face, or even to admit, the truth.” THIS DESPERATELY needs to be said, and said often. The meaningfulness of the current dialogue between the races in Texas or in New Yorkis being grossly over-estimated. We are lying to one another with a vastness and an ease we scarcely comprehend. The “we” Silberman uses means, presumably, whites and Negroes of the liberal middle class, since these are the two groups ostensibly engaged in pioneering a new and honest dialogue. Concerned as he is with change rather than the appearance of change, ‘\(even or especially when appearances are psychologically needed as a crutch by embattled peothorough working over. He feels we have been looking at the promissory notes and unwilling to endure the loss of standing by notes into the hard currency of liberation. To defuse the elaborate psychological booby traps in the American question of race, Silberman delicately balances the white man’s “Negro problem” with the “Negroes’ Negro problem.” A clever tactician who knows where the mine fields are, he takes care to deploy prestigious Negro authorities and time-honored Negro folk sayings as flank support for his sudden January 22, 1965 3
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