Box 13, Folder 21, Document 13

http://allenarchive.iac.gatech.edu/originals/ahc_CAR_015_013_021_013.pdf

Dublin Core

Title

Box 13, Folder 21, Document 13

Text Item Type Metadata

Text

- ---- ~----------~-- - --- -
- - - -----
by James P. Comer
e Social Power
of the Negro
~----
Reprinted with J:!Frm 1ss1on. Copyright ~
1967 by Scientific American, Jnc. All ri ghl
reserved.
l
-
i
(


'If


I
20
�The concept of "black power" is an
infl amm atory one. It was introduced
in an atmosphere of militancy (during
James Meredith's march through Mississippi last June) and in many quarters it has been equated with violence
and riots. As a result the term distresses
white friends of the Negro, frightens
and angers others and causes many
Negroes who are fearful of white disapproval to reject the concept without
considering its rationale and its merits.
The fact is th at a form of black power
may be absolutely essential. The experience of Negro Americans, supported
by numerous historical and psychological studies, suggests that the profound
needs of the poorest and most alienated
Negroes cannot be met-,-and that there
can therefore be no end to racial unrest-except through the influence of a
unified , organized Negro community
with genuine political and economic
power.
Why are Negro effo rts to ach ieve
greater unity and power considered unnecessary and even dangerous by so
many people, Negro as well as white,
friends as well as enemies? I believe it
is because the functions of group power
- and hence the consequences of political and economic impotence-are
not understood by most Americans.
The "melting pot" myth has obscured
the critical role of group power in the
adj ustment of white immi grant groups
in this country.
When immigrants were fa ced with
discrimi nation, exploitation and abuse,
they turned in on th emselves. Sustained
psychologically by the bonds of their
cultural heritage, they maintai ned family, religious, and social institutions
that had great stabilizing force . The
institutions in turn fostered group unity.
Family stability and group unity-plus
access to political machinery, jobs in
industry and opportunities on the frontier- led to group power: immigrants
voted, gained political influence, held
public office, owned land and operated
businesses. Group power and influence
expanded individual opportunities and
facilitated individual achievement, and
within one or two generations most immigrants en joyed the benefits of firstclass American citizenship.
The Negro experience has been very
different. The traumatic effects of separation from Africa, slavery, and the
denial of political and economic opportunities after the abolition of slavery
created divisive psychological and social forces in the Negro community.
Coordinated group action, which was
certainly appropriate for a despised
minority, has been too little evid ent;
Negroes have seldom moved cohesively
and effectively against discrim ination
and exploitation. These abuses led to
the creation of an impoverished , und ereducated, and al ienated group-a sizable minority among Negroes, disproportionately large compared with other
ethnic groups. This troubled minority
has a self-defeating "style" of li fe that
leads to repeated fa ilure, and its plight
and its reaction to that plight are at the
core of the continuing racial conflict
in the U.S. Only a mea ningful and
powerful Negro community can help
members of this group realize their potenti al, and thus alleviate racial unrest.
The importance of "black power" becomes comprehensible in the light of
the interrelation of disunity, impotence, and alienation.
The roots of Negro division are of
African origin. It is important to realize that the slave contingents brought
out of Africa were not from a single
ethnic group. They were from a nu mber of groups and from many different
tribes with different languages, custom s, traditions , and ways of life. Some
were farmers, some hunters and gatherers, some traders. There were old
animosities, and these were exacerbated
by the dynamics of the slave trade itself. (Today these same tribal animosities are evident, as in Nigeria, wh ere
centuries-old conflict among the Ibo,
Hausa, and Yoruba tribes threatens
to disrupt the nation. A significant
num ber of slaves came from these very
tribes.)
T he cohesive potential of the captives was low to begin with , a nd the
breakup of kinship groupings, which in
Africa had defined people's roles and
rel ations, decreased it fu rther. Presu mably if the Africa ns had been settled in
a free land , they would in time h ave
organized to build a new society meeting their own needs. Instead they were
organized to meet the needs of th eir
masters. The sl aves were scattered in
sm all groups (the average holding was
only between two and five slaves)
that were isol ated from one another.
The small number and mixed origins
of each plantation's slaves made the
maintenance of any oral tradition, and
thus of any tribal or racial identity and
pride, impossible. Moreover, any
group ing that was potentially cohesive
because of family, kinship , or tribal
con nections was deliberately divided or
tightly controlled to prevent rebellion.
Having absolute power, the master
could buy and sell, could decree cohabitation, punishment or death, could
provide food , shelter, and clothing as
he saw fit. The system was engraved
21
�O
-~~
""

-
,-...._
I
.·.
I
'....,
_'f
-~
-
/)\
J
I
'
I
.,--:.,~
J
.!
in law and maintained by the religious
and political authorities and the armed
forces; the high visibility of the slaves
and the lack of places to hide made
escape almost inconceivable.
The powerless position of the slave
was traumatic, as Stanley M. E lkins
showed in his study of Negro slavery.
The male was not the respected provider, the protector and head of his
household. T he female was not rearing
her child to take his place in a rewarding society, nor could she count on
protection from her spouse or any responsible male. The reward for hard
work was not material goods and the
recognition of one's fellow men but
only recognition from the master as a
fa ithful but inferior being. The master
- "the man"-became the necessary
object of the slave's emotional investment, the person whose approval he
needed. T he slave could love or hate
or have ambivalent feelings about the
relationship, but it was the most important relationship of his life.
In this situation self-esteem depended on closeness or similarity to
the master, not on personal or group
power and achievement, and it was
gained in ways that tended to divide
the Negro pop ulation. H ouse slaves
looked down on field hands, "mixedbloods" on "pure blacks," slaves with
rich and important masters on slaves
whose masters had less prestige. T here
was cleavage between the " troublemakers" who promoted revolt and sabotage
and the "good slaves" who betrayed
them, and between slave Negroes and
free ones. The development of positive
identity as a Negro was scarcely possible.
22
It is often assumed that with the end
of the Civil War the situation of the
free Negroes was about the same as that
of immigrants landing in America. In
reality- it was quite different. Negroes
emerging from slavery entered a society at a peak of racial antagonism.
They had long since been stripped of
their African heritage; in their years
in America they had been unable to
create much of a record of their own;
they were deeply marked by the degrading experience of slavery. Most
significant, they were denied the weapons they needed to become part of
American life : economic and political
opportunities. No longer of any value
to their former masters, they were now
direct competitors of the poor whites.
The conditions of life imposed by the
" Black codes" of the immediate postwar period were in many ways as harsh
as slavery had been. In the first two
years after the end of the war many
Negroes suffered violence and death at
the hands of unrestrained whites; there
was starvation and extreme dislocation.
In 1867 the Reconstruction Acts put
the South under mil itary occupation
and gave freedmen in the 11 Southern
states the right to vote. (In the North,
on the other hand, Negroes continued
to be barred from the polls in all but
nine states, either by specific racial
qualifications or by prohibitive taxation. Until the Fifteenth Amendment
was ratified in 1870, only some 5 per
cent of the Northern Negroes could
vote.) The Reconstruction Acts also
provided some military and legal protection, educational opportunities, and
health care. Reconstruction did not,
however, make enough land available
to Negroes to create an adequate power
base. The plantation system meant that
large numbers of Negroes· remained
under tight control and were vulnerable
~
to economic reprisals. Although Ne.
groes could outvote wh ites in some
states and did in fact control the LouisiaDa and South Carolina legislatures,
the franchise did not lead to real power.
.This lack of power was largely due
to the Negro's economic vulnerability,
but the group divisions that had developed during slavery also played a
part. It was the "mixed-bloods" and
the house slaves of middle- and upperclass whites who had acquired some
education and skills under slavery; now
many of these people ·became Negro
leaders. They often had emotional ties
to whites and a need to please them,
and they advanced the cause· of the
Negroes as a group most gingerly.
Moreover, not understanding the causes
of the apathy, lack of achievement,
and asocial behavior of some of their
fellows, many of them found their Negro identity a source of shame rather
than psychological support, and they
were ready to subordinate the needs
of the group to personal gains that
would give them as much social and
psychological distance from their people as possible. The result was that
Negro leaders, with some notable exceptions, often became the tools of white
leaders. Through out the Reconstruction
period meaningful Negro power was
being destroyed, and long before the
last Negro disappeared from Southern
legislatures Negroes were powerless.
Under such circumstances Negro
economic and educational progress was
severely inhibited. Negro-owned businesses were largely dependent on the
impoverished Negro community and
were operated by people who had little
education or experience and who found
it difficult to secure financing; they
could not compete with white businesses. Negroes were largely untrained
for anything but farm labor or domestic
�- -- - - -- - - - - -- -- -- - - - ~- - - - - - - - -- - -
work, and a white social structure maintaining itself through physical force
and economic exploitation was not
likely to provide the necessary educational opportunities. Minimal fac ilities,
personnel and funds were provided for
the "Negro schools" that were established, and only the most talented Negroes were able-if they were luckyto obtain an education comparable to
that available to whites.
As John Hope Franklin describes it
in R econstruction after the Civil War,
the Reconstruction was ineffective for
the vast majority of Negroes, and it
lasted only a sh ort time: Federal troops
had left most Southern states by 1870.
While Negroes were still stru ggling for
a first foothold, national political developments made it advisable to placate Southern leaders, and the Federal
troops were recalled from the last three
Southern states in 18 77 . There was a
brief period of restraint, but it soon
gave way to violence and terror on a
large scale. Threats and violence drove
Negroes away from the polls. Racist
sheriffs, legislators, and judges came
into offi ce. Segregation laws were
passed, buttressed by cou rt decisions
and law enforcement practices, and
erected into an institution that rivaled
slavery in its effectiveness in excluding
Negroes from public affairs-business,
the labor movement, government, and
public education.
'At the time-and in later years-white
people often pointed to the most depressed and unstable Negro and in effec t made his improvement in education and behavior a condition for the
granti ng of equal opportunities to all
Negroes . Wh at kind of people made up
this most disadvantaged segment of the
Negro- community? I believe it can be
shown that these were the Negroes who
had lived under the most traumatic and
disorganized conditions as slaves. Family life had been prohibited , discouraged or allowed to exist only under
precarious conditions, with no recourse
fro m sa le, separation, or sexual violation. Some of these people had been
treated as breeding stock or work animals; many had experienced brutal and
sadistic physical and sexual assaults.
In many cases the practice of reli gion
was forbidden , so that even self-respect
as "a child of God" was denied them.
Except for running away (and more
tried to escape than has generally been
realized) th ere was nothing these slaves
could do but adopt various defense
mech ani sms. They respond ed in various ways, as is poignantly recorded in
a collection of firstha nd accounts obtained by Benjamin A. Botkin. Many
did as li ttle work as they could without
being punished, thus developing work
habits that were not conducive to success after slavery. Many sabotaged the
master's tools and other property, thus
evolving a disrespect for property in
general. Some resorted to a massive·
denial of the real ity of their lives and
took refuge in apathy, thus creating the
slow-moving, slow-thinking stereotype
of the Southern Negro. Others resorted
instead to boisterous "acting out" behavior and limited their interests to
the fulfillment of such basic needs a~
food and sex.
After slavery these patterns of be-
- - ---
··1!"---.-_.._
(
23
-
�-
-
- - A,
i
havior persisted. The members of this
severely traumatized group did not
value family life. Moreover, for economic reasons and by force of custom
the family often lacked a male head,
or at least a legal husband and father.
Among these people irresponsibil ity,
poor work habits, disregard for conventional standards, and anger toward
whites expressed in violence toward
one another combined to form a way
of life- a style-that caused them to
be rejected and despised by whites and
other Negroes alike. They were bound
to fa il in the larger world.
When they did fail, they turned in on
their own subculture, which accordingly became self-reinforcing. Children
born into it learned its way of life. Isolated and also insulated from outside
influences, they had little opportun ity
to change. The values, behavior patterns and sense of alienation transmitted within this segment of the population from generation to generation account for the bulk of the illegitimacy,
crime, and other types of asocial behavior that are present in disproportionate amounts in the Negro community today. This troubled subgroup has·
always been a minority, but its behavior
constitutes many white people's concept of "typical" Negro behavior and
even tarnishes the image many other
Negroes have of themselves. Over the
years defensive Negro leaders have
regularly blamed the depressed subgroup for creating a bad image; the
members of the subgroup have blamed
the leaders for " selling out." There has
been just enough truth in both accusations to keep them alive, accentuating division and perpetuating conflicts,
and impeding the development of group
consc'iousness, cooperation, power, and
mutual gains.
It is surprising, considering the h ar.s h
24
conditions of slavery, . that there were
any Negroes who made a reasonable
adjustment to freedom. Many h ad
come from Africa with a set of values
that included hard work and stability
of fam ily and tribal life. (I suspect, but
I have not been able to demonstrate,
that in Africa many of these had been
farmers rather than hunters and gatherers. ) As slaves many of them found
the support and rewards required to
maintain such values through their intense involvement in religion . From this
group, after slavery, came the Godfearing, hardworking, law-abiding domestics and laborers who prepared their
children for responsible living, in many
cases making extreme personal sacrifices to send them to trade school or
college. (The significance of this
church-oriented background in motivating educational effort and success even
today is indicated by some preliminary
findings of a compensatory education
program for which I am a consultant.
Of 125 Negro students · picked for the
program from 10 southeastern states
solely on the basis of academic prom~
ise, 95 per cent have parents who are
regular churchgoers, deeply involved
as organizers and leaders in church affa irs. )
For a less religious group of Negroes
the discovery of meaning, fulfillment,
and a sense of worth lay in a different
direction. Their creative talents brought
recogniti'on in the arts, created the blues
and jazz, and opened the entertainment industry to Negroes. Athletic excellence provided another kind of
achievement. Slowly, from among the
religious, the creative, and the athletic,
a new, educated, and talented middle
class began to emerge that had less
need of white approval than the Negroes who had managed tq get ahead
in earlier days. Large numbers of Ne-
groes should have risen into the middle
class by way of these relatively stable
groups, but because of the lack of Negro political and economic power and
the barriers of racial prejudice many
could not. Those whose aspirations
were frustrated often reacted destructively by turning to the depressed Negro subgroup and its way of life; the
subculture of failure sh aped by slavery
gained new recruits and was perpetuated by a white society's obstacles to
acceptance and achievement.
In the past 10 years or so the "Negro
revolt"-the intensifi~d legal actions,
nonviolent demonstrations, court decisions, and legislation-and changing
economic conditions have brought
rapid and significant ga ins for middleclass Negroes. The mass of low-income
Negroes have made little progress however; many have been aroused by civil
rights talk but few have benefited. Of
all Negro families, 40 per cent are clas- ,
sified as "poor" according to Social Security Admi nistration criteria. (The
figure for white families is 11 per cent.)
Low-income Negroes have menial jobs
or are unemployed; they live in segregated neighborhoods and are exploited
by landlords and storekeepers; they are
often the victims of crime and of the
violent, displaced fr ustrations of their
friends and neighbors. The urban riots
of the past few years have been the
reaction of a small segment of this
population to the frustrations of its
daily existence.
�['
--
-
,,.,
·_
...;

,,i ·
lI '
I
-.~.. f',..i


,


.;.;;_
, , • I
--
-
'
I
_.,.
l
,::>~-:: .
'! .··
k.;.: ·_·~~:::.J'{ :·: . '~{
-'-!.,._'.,.:-.•:>:.-:,,•,.w.a. -··'-...,~
w~-------·'--'~· " ~ -----~
....Ul,1 . .,:;'_ .l .
Why is it that so many Negroes h ave
been un able to take advantage of the
Negro revolt as the immigrants did of
opportunities offered them? The major reason is that the requirements for
economic success have been ra ised.
The virtuall y free land on the frontier
is gone. T he unskilled and semisk ill ed
jobs that were ava ilable to wh ite immigran ts are scarce today, and many
unions controll ed by lower-middle-class
wh ites bar Negroes to keep the jobs
for their present members. The law
does not help here because Negroes
are underrepresented in municipal and
state legislative bodies as well as in
Congress. Negroes hold few pol icymaking positions in industry and Tegro small businesses are a negligible
source of employment.
Employment opportunities exist, of
course- for highly skilled workers and
technicians. Th ese jobs require education and training that many Negroes,
along with many white workers, lack.
The training takes time and requires
motivation, and it must be based on
satisfactory education through high
school. Most poor Negroes lack that education , and many young Negroes are
not getting it today. There are Negro
childre n who are performing adequately
in elementary school but who will fail
by the time they reach high school,
either because their schools are in adequate or because their homes and subculture will simply not sustain their
efforts in later years.
It is not enough to provide a "head
start"; studies have sh own th at gains
made as the result of the new preschool
enrichment programs are lost, in most
cases, by the third grade. Retraining
programs for workers and programs for
high school dropouts are palliative
measures that have limited value. Some
of the jobs for which people are being
tra ined will not ex ist in a few years.
Many stude nts drop out of the dropout
progra ms. Other students have such
self-defeat ing values and behavior that
they wi ll not be employable even if
they complete th e programs .
A number of investigators (Daniel
P. Moynihan is one) have po inted to
the st ru cture of the poorer Negro fam il y as the key to Negro problems. They
po int to a n important area but miss the
cru x of the problem. Certa inly the lack
of a stable family deprives many Negro ch ildren of psychological security
and of the va lues and behavior patterns
they need in order to achieve success.
Certainly many low-income Negro fam ilies lack a father. Even if it were possible to legislate the father back into
the home, however, the grim picture is
unchanged if his own values and conduct are not compatible with achievement. A father frustrated by society
often reacts by mistreating his ch ildren . Even adeq uate parents despair
and are helpless in a subculture th at
leads the ir children astray. The point
of intervention must be the subculture
that impinges on the family and in fl uences its values and style of behavior
and even its structure.
How, then, does one break the circle? Many white children who found
their immigrant fam ily and subculture
out of step with the dominant American
culture and with their own desires were
able to break away and establish a
sense of belonging to a group outside
their own-if the pull was strong
enough . Some chi ldren in the depressed
Negro group do this too. A specific
pull is often needed: some individual
or institution that sets a goal or acts as
a model.
The trouble is that racial prejudice
and alienation from the white and Negro middle class often mean that there
is little pull from the dominant culture
on lower-class Negro children. In my
work in schools in disadvantaged areas
as a consultant from the Child Study
Center at Yale I have found that many
Negro children perceive the outside
cul ture as a separate white man's
world. Once they are 12 or 14 years
old- the age at wh ich a firm sense of
racial identity is established- many
Negroes have a need to shut out the
white man's world and its va lues and
insti tutions and also to reject "wh ite
Negroes," or the Negro middle class.
Since these children see their problems
as being rac ial ones, they are more
likely to learn how to cope with these
problems from a middle-class Negro
who extends h imself than from a white
person, no matter how honest and free
of hostility and guilt the white person
may be.
25
�r .
I
i
·1
()
.-\
·:: I
..·.. \
'
.
·-)
_J
\ I, I
'i\',\, , ; '
i
t
,
f,
t
I
ri·.

~

.,
I
'
'
! •
t
f
j,
t
I
t
I
L-
26
( '
I
,,'
.
Unfortunately the Negro community is
not now set up to offer its disadvantaged members a set of standards and
a psychological refuge in the way the
white immigrant subcultures did . There
is no Negro institution beyond the family that is enough in harmony with the
total American culture to transmit its
behavioral principles and is meaning ul
enough to Negroes to effect adherence
to those principles and sufficiently accepted by divergent elements of the
Tegro community to act as a cohesive
force. The church comes cl osest to performing th is function, but Negroes belong to an excep tional number of different denominations, and in many
cases the denominations are divided
and antagonistic. The same degree of
division is found in the major fraternal
and civic organizations and even in civil
rights groups.
There is a special reason for some
of the sharp divisions in Negro organizations. With Negroes largely barred
from business, politics and certain labor unions, the quest for power and
leadersh ip in Negro organizations has
been and continues to be particularly
intense, and there is a great deal of
conflict. Only a few Negroes have a
broad enough view of the total society
to be able to identify the real sources
of their difficulties. And the wide divergence of their interests often makes
it difficult for them to agree on a coursf;
of action. All these factors make Negro
groups vulnerable to divide-and-conquer tactics, either inadvertent or deliberate.
Viewing such disarray, altruis ic
white people and publ ic an private
agencies have moved into the apparent
vacuum-often failing to recognize
that, in spite of conflict, existing Negro insti tutions were meeting important
psychological needs and were in close
�contact with their people. Using these
meaningful institutions as vehicles for
delivering new social services would
have strengthened the only forces capable of supporting and organizing the
Negro community. Instead, the new
age ncies, public and private, have ignored the existi ng inst itutions and have
tried to do the job themselves. The
agencies often have storefro nt locations and hire some "indigenous"
workers, but the cl ass and racial gap
is difficult to cross. The thong-sandaled,
long-haired white girl doing employment counseling may be friendly and
sympathetic to Negroes, but she cannot
possibly tell a Negro youngster (indeed, she does not know that she
should tell him ) : "You've got to look
better than the white applicant to get
the job." Moreover, a disadvantaged
Negro- or any Negro- repeatedly
helped by powerful wh ite people while
his own group appears powerless or
unconcerned is unlikely to develop satisfactory feeli ngs about his group or
himself. The effects of an undesirable
racial self- concept among many Negroes have been documented repeatedly, yet many current programs tend
to perpetuate this basic problem rather
than to relieve it.
A solution is suggested by the fact that this mech an ism Negroes who had
many successful Negroes no longer feel achieved success cou ld come in contact
the need to maintain psychological and with the large r Negro group. nstead
social distance from their own people. of the policy king, pimp, and prostitute
Many of them wa nt to help. Their pres- being the models of success in the subence and tangible involvement in the cul ture, the Negro ath lete, businessNegro comm unity would tend to bal- man, professional, and entertainer
ance the pull-the comforts and the mi ght become the models once they
immediate pleasures-of the subcul- could be respected because they were
ture. Because the functions of Negro obviously workin g for the Negro comorganizations have been largely pre- munity. These leaders would then be
empted by white agencies, however, in a pos ition to encourage and promote
no Negro institution is available throu gh hi gh-level performance in school and
which such people can work to over- on the job. At the same time broad
come a cen tury of intra- egro cl ass measures to "institutional ize" the total
alienation.
Negro experience would increase raRecently a few Negroes have begun ci al pride, a powerfu l motivating force .
to consider a plan that could meet some The entire program wou ld provide the
of the practical needs, as well as the fo undat ion for unified politicai' action
sp iritu al and psychological needs, of to give the Negro community reprethe Negro communi ty. In Cleveland, sentatives who speak in its best interNew York, Los An geles, and some ests.
That, after all, has been the pattern
smaller cities new leaders are emerging who prop ose to increase Negro co- in white America . There was, and still
hesiveness and self-respect through self- is, Irish power, German, Polish, Ital ian,
hel p enterprises: cooperatives that and . Jewish power-and in deed white
would reconstruct slums or operate Anglo-Saxon Protestant power-but
apa rtm ent buildings and businesses color obviously makes these groups
providing goods and services at fa ir less clearly identifiable than Negroes .
prices. Ideally these enterpr ises would Churches and synagogues, cultural and
be owned by people wh o mean some- fratern al societies, unions, business asthing to the Negro com muni ty- Ne- sociations, and networks of allied famgro ath letes, entertain ers, artists, pro- ilies and "clans" have served as centers
fessionals, and government workersof power that maintain group conand by Negro churches, fraternal sciousness, provide jobs and develop
groups, and civil rights organ izations . new opportunities, and join to form
The owners would share control of pressure and voting blocs. The "nathe enterprises with the people of_the tionality divisions" of the major parcommunity.
ties and the balanced ticket are two
Such undertakin gs would be far more reminders that immi grant loyalties are
th an investment opportunities for well- still not completely melted.
The idea of creating Negro enterto-do Negroes. With the proper structure they would become permanent and prises and institutions is not intend.::d
rejection of genuinely concerned
tangible institutions on which the Ne- as
gro community could focus without white people or as an indictment of
requiring a "white enemy" and into]~ all existing organizations. White peoerable conditions to unify it. Through ple of good will with interest, skills,
a
27
�~------------__-_-_-.....-_
-_-_-- -------<r "'
rt .
-.
'
I'
,,.
./
-
J ~ .'
--~_,,
- ---1
...
,,..,
/
\
/
!
\
~
\
-
~
,
. l.
I

-_
t
I
c ;- --
--- \ \ '
_,
I
I ~~·· .
',
The power structure of white societyindustry, banks, the press, government
-can continue, either inadvertently or
deliberately, to maintain the divisions
in the Negro community and keep it
powerless. Social and econom ic statistics and psychological studies indicate
that this would be a mistake. F or many
reasons the ranks of the alienated are
growing. No existing program seems
able to meet the needs of the most
troubled and troublesome group. It is
generally agreed that massive, immediate action is required. The form of that
action should be attuned, however, to
the historically determined need for
Negro pol itical and economic power
that will fac ilitate Negro progress and
give Negroes a reasonable degree of
control over their own destiny.

'
I
"(
and funds are needed and- contrary
to the provocative assertions of a few
Negroes-are still welcome in the Negro community. The kind of " black
power" that is proposed would riot
promote riots ; rather, by providing constructive channels for the energies· released by the civil rights movement, it
should diminish the violent outbursts
directed against the two symbols of
white power and oppression : the police
and the white merchants.
To call for Negro institutions, moreover, is not to argue for segregation or
discrimination. Whether we like it or
not, a number of large cities are going
to become predominantly Negro in a
short time. The aim is to make these
cities places where people can live decently and reach their highest potential
with or without integration. An integrated society is the ultimate goal, but
it may be a second stage in some areas.
Where immediate integration is possible it should be effected, but integration takes place most easily among
educated and secure people. And in
the case of immediate integration an
organized and supportive Negro community would help its members to
maintain a sense of adequacy in a situation in which repeated reminders of
the white head start often make Negroes feel all the more inferior.
-
-
,_
I
James P. Comer is a fellow in psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine
He received a bachelor's degree fron
Indiana University, in 1956 and wa.
graduated from the Howard Univer
sity College of Medicine in 1960. Fol
lowing two years as a fellow in publi,
health at Howard, he took a master'.
degree in public health at the University of M ichigan in 1964. He joine, .
the psychiatric residency program a
Yale the same year.
"My interest in race relations," h,
says, "developed at an early age, in par
from both troublesome and satisfyini
experiences as a N egro youngster in 1
low-income family in a racially inte
grated community."
He adds that work as a voluntee
in an agency concerned with social rehabilitation of fam ilies w ith problem
infiuenced his decision "to train in psychiatry and to focu s on preventive an
social aspects."
This article first appeared in th
April 1967 Scientific American.
The photographs accompanying th
article are by Joel Katz. The piclllre
were taken in M ississippi and Connect·
icut in the s11111111ers of 1964 and 1966
T h e Mississippi photographs are from,
Scholar of the House project which wo1
the Strong Prize in American Literature in 1965.

Transcribe This Item

  1. http://allenarchive.iac.gatech.edu/originals/ahc_CAR_015_013_021_013.pdf

Document Viewer