[Sixth National Conference of Friends on Race Relations Booklet] Page: 7 of 16
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They could build hospitals, schools and houses,
parks and playgrounds, and get to work on air and
water pollution. Public works give jobs to unskilled
labor and help meet desperate needs of the people at
the same time. But white power has said 'no'.
Now lets look at voting. Great effort has gone into
getting Negroes registered and in educating them to
vote, especially since the Voting Rights Act of 1964.
Along with this there has been a relentless campaign
in the South of harassment, intimidation and economic
reprisal to make Negroes afraid to register and vote.
The economic reprisals run the gamut from loss of job
and eviction to being taken off the welfare roll. In the
deep South 'welfare' is a widely used tool of white
power. This also includes the distribution of surplus
commodities and the food stamp program.
Because of their economic dependency on whites
Negroes are peculiarly vulnerable to economic reprisal.
The fear of this is so great in some parts of the South
that they are even afraid to talk about it.
In areas where these tactics don't work and the right
of Negroes to vote is accepted, other tactics to dilute
the impact of Negro voting are beginning to appear.
The flight of whites to the suburbs and the concen-
tration of Negroes in the central cities has created a
potential voting strength for Negroes that looks excit-
ing to civil rights leaders. "If we can just get Negroes
to vote" they say. But they underestimate the resource-
fulness of white power.
In no time we are going to find that cities will extend
their city limits to include the white suburbs and so in
one stroke dilute the voting strength of Negroes. This
will be sold for the soundest of reasons, with the Lea-
gue of Women Voters leading the 'reform'. It will, they
will say, consolidate services and schools and lead to
more efficient and effective government. No one will
mention how it also will dilute Negro voting strength.
Other white power tactics: Negro vote will be gerry-
mandered and put where it will be least effective.
Offices likely to be won by Negro candidates will be
abolished. There will be a shift away from district
elections toward city-wide and county-wide elections
effectively diluting Negro voting strength. And Con-
gress will not grant the vote to the District of Colum-
bia solely because Negroes are in the majority there.
Cities and counties are creatures of the state. I sus-
pect that as more and more of our cities have large and
potentially controlling voting strength by Negroes,
city charters will be changed and less local autonomy
This ability to change the rules as they go along is a
hallmark of white power. Current efforts to 'strength-
en state governments' may owe some of its momentum
to the changing component of our cities.
I am convinced that the dire financial straits of cities
with their deteriorating public services and public
schools is associated with their rising Negro population.
The money to correct this deterioration would be
found if white power wanted to correct it.
I might add that I think letting our cities go to the
brink of economic and social disaster, aside from the
inhumanity of it, is very short-sighted. But then I
think most of their policies in regard to the poor and to
Negroes are shortsighted. The decision-makers in this
country seem to me to be living in some other world
and have lost touch with this one.
This is the sketchiest kind of listing of white power
methods. But I want to mention a few more.
Police brutality and harassment is one of the nost
frequent complaints. In its more serious form it in-
volves repeated arrests, on trumped up charges, ex-
cessive bail, postponement of trial, beatings.
Taking pictures of people and of license plates at
meetings and demonstrations is typical of police tactics
calculated to intimidate the fearful.
The inequality of justice is flagrant throughout the
South. Murder of Negroes and civil rights workers,
with immunity from punishment, is well known. Less
well known are the longer sentences and larger fines
given Negroes than whites for the same offense, and
the grossly unequal treatment they receive when in the
hands of the law.
Negro farmers in the South have been grossly dis-
criminated against for 100 years. This neglect stands
out with peculiar clarity because it is in the field of
agriculture that we have made our most comprehen-
sive investment in human capital and where the mod-
ern technological revolution made its first great strides.
And all financed from the beginning by the govern-
Agricultural colleges in 1862 and experiment stations
in 1887 came first, followed by county agents and
home demonstration agents in 1914, to insure that new
discoveries and new methods were taken directly to
the farmers. Then in 1917 high school courses in agri-
culture and home economics followed.
Since then all of these beginnings have been ex-
tended dramatically and new kinds of help given. Our
agricultural production is the marvel of the world. It is
the result of comprehensive investment by the federal
government in education, research and the dissemina-
tion of the results of the research.
The continuing myth of the farmer as the prototype
of the rugged individual who asks and receives no
government help is a monumental hoax. On the con-
trary he is more accurately a demonstration of what
government help can do.
But most of this help went to whites. Negroes were
simply bypassed. And now people look at their pitiful
farms and say 'They just can't farm' or 'They have
gone about as far as they can go'. This last was said by
an employee of the Department of Agriculture.
Both past and present agricultural programs have
been administered by people who simply take for
granted that Negroes have an inferior status. They
operate from the assumption that Negroes are second
class citizens. Federal programs designed to improve
the economic situation of all people have failed to pro-
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[Sixth National Conference of Friends on Race Relations Booklet], text, July 1967; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth595342/m1/7/: accessed May 26, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Southern University.