Box 7, Folder 9, Document 5

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Box 7, Folder 9, Document 5

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The Race Problem:
"What Are You Going To Do About It?"
An Address
At the Opening of the Fund-Raising Campaign
for the
"University of Community Involvement"
on April 1, 1968 at
New Rochelle Hospital
New Rochelle, New York
A Ci tize n of N ew Roch e ll e
President of N ew Yor k Se ve n-Up
�What we need is men of good will. Men who truly care. Men who want to
help in the solving of the problem. Men from the white community, men from the
black community, and women from both. Can we find one-hundred such in New
Rochelle? Can we find fifty? Can we find twenty? What would we call them? It
makes little difference. Call them the "Committee of 100," or whatever else. The
main thing is to call them together.
Once called together, once engaged in dialogue, once exposed to the hopes,
the problems, the needs of the city, as it strives to be what all of us want it to be,
I can envision no problem that its members, as true men of good will, could not
resolve together. It is the togetherness, the mutual respect and actual understanding that is so obviously lacking now and so obviously needed. And it will take
the leadership that only such a committee can provide to do what is needed to
be done .
Who can qualify for such a committee, for such leadership? I do not know.
I do know that they must come from among the recognized leaders of the city as
it now exists, so that, by their good example, others who respect them will be
moved to follow. They must be leaders who want to contribute of their special
talents to the good of all. In the final analysis they must, I believe, be able to
answer "yes" to the three questions that I ask each of you now :
If you have a child in school in New Rochelle at present or hope to have
one there, be it a public school or private, at whatever level, grade, highschool or college, are you content to have a Negro child seated next
to yours?
If you are in government, in professional life or in a business are you
content to have a Negro as a fellow-worker, a fellow-executive, and, if
qualified, as president of your company?
No matter where you live in New Rochelle, in any house, on any street,
in any section, are you content to see a Negro family move next door
How many men and women can we find to answer yes, and mean it, and live
by it, and lead others to follow them? I do not know . The answer is locked in the
heart of each of us.
But that is what it will toke. It is that simple or that difficult, d e pending upon
what is in our hearts. You will be asked soon to be such a leader. Let there be
no embarrassment if you cannot accept because you cannot truthfully answer
"yes" to these three questions. You will at least have been honest with yourself .
Since I have proposed this self-examination to be made and answered
privately, it seems only fair and proper for me to answer publicly . I do so now,
humbly in the presence of so many better men than I, answer " yes" to these three
questions .
Is this the impossible dream, is there not enough love in the world, is my life
so busy that I am unable or unwilling to hold out my hand to my ne ighbor?
Perhaps if only a few re spond it will be the impossible dream . But, if enough of
our leaders are willing to try, with the help of the God, Who made us all, nothing
is impossible .
I place this in your hands. I commend it to your hearts .
�On the 19th of March, just o ne day short of two weeks ago, I was aske d if I
would talk to you today, he re in New Rochelle Hospital. Although, like yours,
my life and my schedule are filled almost to the brimming, I acce pte d immediately.
I acce pted for the strongest of all re a so ns: my conscie nce told me to acce pt. And
happily I found myself in full agreem e nt wi th my conscience. I would be less than
fair wit h you, if I did not te ll you why .
When those fleet in g moments of reflection permit, I suppose that ea ch of us
on occasion talks to himse lf. On such occasions two voices wi thin us seem to be
engaged in a d ialogue, voices that as k questions and give answ e rs . Som e times the
questions go like this :
" How well do you think you are doing with your life ?"
" You say that. you are very busy, busy with earning a li ving, busy with various
outsid e acti vities, perhaps a host of them, but are you aware that you could do
more, t hat you could do be tter?"
" Now, pl e ase take a hard look at your life from the vie wpoint of what surrounds it and answer this:
'Wh a t is by far the g re atest problem of your tim e in your nation, in your
" Yo u know very simply, ve ry clearly and ve ry quick ly wh at th e answe r is.
It is the problem of race . Th e crying, hurtful, gna wi ng , frustrating probl em, which
exists because one man 's skin is white and anoth er man 's sk in is black ."
An d as yo u menta lly nod " yes, yo u are ri ght, " there follows, as always it must,
that awful, final question , that qu estion which strips you of all the trappings of
your life up to t hat moment:
" What are you going to do about it?"
Please note, d e ar friends , how this question is ask ed of us . Conscie nce is not
content to know how we fee/ about it. It stu bbornly wa nts to know:
"What ar e yo u going to do about it?"
I said t ha t I would b e le ss than fair if I did not tell you why I am here today .
a m he re b e ca use of t hat question. I want wit h all my heart to do something,
to ma ke so me contribution , small as it may be, to the p eacef ul and happy solution of t he most important p robl e m of o ur lifetimes together, he re in th e city for
w hich all of us sha re so d ee p an affectio n. I address you wit h th e greatest of
confi d e nce, on a man to man basis, because I know so many of you and have
count less re aso ns to be sure of t he goodness in your hearts.
Sp e cifically, we are he re today to muster support for the idea and th e financing
of an infant enter prise call e d, ra t he r unusually, the " Uni versity of Community Involvement." Is t his an e arth-s ha ki ng mo ve me nt to date? Is it going to so lve the race
problem in New Ro ch e ll e ? Ha s it b ee n without controve rsy in th e past? Certainly
not! But the a ll -i mportant t hing is that it is a b e ginn ing . A community-beginning,
impe rfect as it may b e, toward the final, searching question:
" W ha t a re you going to do a bout it?"
The "University of Community Involveme nt" is not even dire ctly positioned as
a program only for the Negro community. It may have, by past circumstance and
realistic fact-facing, been forc ed to lean that way, but that is not what it envisions.
It is ideally directed to black anci white, poor and rich, young and old. It is called
a "university" for a valid reason: its classrooms are the city streets and city buildings, where living together under love and under law are the subjects taught; its
students are the youth of our city, be they black or white; and its faculty are the
civic, government and business leaders of the total community. What it needs most
of all now is a board of trustees, whose attitude is to support and guide this first
small step toward the answer to the question which our consciences ask . In proof
of what I have said, le t me read the very first line written about this evolving
organization : " 'The University of Community Involvement' is in the business of
shaping Human Attitudes." Let me repeat: the business of shaping human attitudes.
Now, friends, it is on the subject of " attitude" that I most earnestly want to
open my mind and my heart to you and to ask you to search your own hearts and
minds, as we consider together the number one probl e m of our nation and city,
the problem of race .
Let us suppose for a moment that we could stand far e nough removed from
the problem so as to view it objectively and without prejudice. Hard to do? Very
hard . But just suppose that we could. Certainly God do e s. Le t's at least try it
together .
The first reflection we might well make would be to wonder why in the world,
when God came to make Man , by far the gre atest of all in His series of created
things, why in the world did He make some men wh ite and some men colored.
(And parenthetically, He made many more colored than He did white.) Didn't He
forese e that this was going to lead to trouble? Then w hy did He do it? Not one
of us knows, not even the most brilliant among us . All we know is that He permitted men to be that way .
Th e second reflection that we might make would b e that, eve n considering
the many shadings of re ligious b eliefs, there emerges a very basic formula for
solving th e probl e m: love God above all e lse and love your neighbor as yourself .
Now from our hypoth etical, unpr ej udice d and objectiv e point of view, knowing
th e probl em, and knowing th e basic formula above for solving it, it really
be com es quite si mpl e to point out thre e steps, which, if tak e n e arn est ly and sincerely by me n of good wil l, wo uld solve the problem in the only way it will really
ever be solved .
The three ste ps should com e as no surprise to any thinking man or woman,
white or black .
l .)
Gi ve th e Ne gro th e full ri ght and th e full opportunity to ha ve the sam e
education as the white man .
Gi ve t he Negro the full right and th e fu ll opportunity to hold any job
in any company for which his education and ability qual ify him .
3 .)
G ive the Negro the full right and the full opportunity to live in any ho us e,
o n any street, in any city, whic h he can afford to occu py .
You wi ll note, I b e li eve, th e inter-relationship of these three esse nti al steps and
the reasonabl e ness of the ord er in w hich th e y are liste d .
In pre paratio n for talking a nd thinking with you to day, I felt it not only important but essenti al to ch e c k my thoughts against those of several men of acknowledged im portance and compete nce in our city, both white and Negro. Th e
time with which these me n favored me was not a brief matte r of minutes. The
averag e time spe nt in th ese conve rsations was a good two hours . I pause for a
mom e nt to thank them sil e ntly for their generosi ty to all of us . Whatever good
may come from our bei ng together he re today will b e, in the greatest part, due
to their generous help and e ncouragement.
In e ach of the conversations with e ach of thes e lead ers, there was comp lete
agreement that the thre e ste ps call ing for e qua l education, e qual e mploymen t,
and equal hou si ng rights end opportuniti es we re basically sound. But it is most
enlightening and important to know that, whe n the point of view of the Ne gro
leaders was ex presse d, our threefold c:nswer took on a fourth dimension . Please
listen carefully to this fourth dimension.
The Negro, with too few exceptions, does not feel himse lf worthy of th ese three
equalities. How strange this is, how foreign to the way the white man thinks and
feels . It was explained to me in this way. Three hund re d ye ars of approximate
slavery, generation upon g e neration of a master-servant re lationship, lifeti me after
lifetime of grinding poverty, of ignorance, of brain wa shin g that what was white
was good and virtuous and powerful, wh il e what was black was evil and menial
and weak have had th e ir effec t, may God forgive it. They have made t he black
man believe that he is, in fact, inferior and thus un wo rt hy of the white ma n's slowly
emerging best inte ntions .
The Negro is trapped, so he believes, in a gh etto soci ety unt il he is shown that
there truly is a way out. He nce the despair, he nce the indol e nce, hen ce the crime,
hence the ang er, hen ce the riot, hence th e ever-increasing polari zati on into a
white society a~d a black society, two Am ericas, and , in a smaller sense, two
New Rochelles. No city, no state, no empire in history has ever been abl e to exist
thus in peace. Not eve n Rome whe n it ruled the w hol e world. It is the obligation
of the lead e rs of the black man and the w hite man to disprove t hi s myth of unworthiness and apply in its stead the obvious and only true soluti o n which we
have discusse d above : the three equalities th at make a man a man .
Since we are only human beings who live in a p ra ctica l wo rld , let me be as
practical a s possi bl e in co ncluding these remarks to you. I am going to ask you
and many other lead e rs in New Rochell e to give of your substance and of yourself .
In plain er words, I am asking for your money, but, more importantly, I am asking
for your he arts.
In mon e y, the minimum need is for $30, 000, to b e contributed by Ap ril 15.
This wi ll und erwrite the impro vement, the exte ns ion and the applica tion of t he
Community Involvem e nt program thro ugh the full summer ahead . This is to be
raised by and from the business and social commu nities of New Rochell e both
black and w hite. I con sider this sum desirable and e nti re ly re asonabl e . W e ought
to b e able to over-~ubscribe it in five min utes right here in this room. It won 't be
don e that way; it will be done by di rect contact. I know you will give it. You a re
both too generous and too practical not to .
But I am much more interested in w hat is in your hea rts. In the fina l anal ysis,
that is the only place the answer can be found to the qu e stion we b e gan wi th:
" What are you going to do about it?"
Subsequent to the · occasion on whi ch these thoughts were expressed, the
citizens' committee to which they referred was formally named
"The Peoples Assembly
New Rochelle, N. Y."
It will be thus incorporated in the state of New York and any gift to it will
be tax deductible. Checks should be drawn to " The People s Asse mbly" and mailed
to the above address.
Particular emphasis should be placed upon the important fact that "The
Peoples Assembly" in no way seeks to intrude upon the activity of any othe r
committee, commission, or body, be it governmental or private, in the city of
New Rochelle.
Its objective is to provide a community-wide gathering of men of good-will,
who are dedicated to the peaceful solution of community problems, and , above
all, those which spring from our difference of race.
" The Peoples Assembly" belongs to 2lJ. the people of New Rochelle. It seeks
without prejudice the happiness of all. May the God Who made us all guide
it to that accomplishment.

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