Karsell Sees Segregation Still Alive in Deep South
The presently popular term "desegregation" is still merely a term--not fact--in the heavily Negro areas of the South and, from all present indications, is it likely to remain a term only for some time to come.
Several recent "hopeful" articles have appeared in national publications implying the success of Southern desegregation. But a careful examination of the locale of these stories will convince thoughtful readers that no such conclusion is to be drawn. In the main, such stories stem from border areas of the South or isolated sections where the ratio of Negro and white is more nearly that of the North. School boards which have agreed, without protest, to abide by the recent ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court and Negro children to formerly white schools do not represent the attitude of the Deep South. For the most part, such school boards have been located in regions where racial inequality was never a problem. Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana, as well as many other regions within border states, will certainly continue to maintain some system of segregation so long as they are able to evade the court's ruling.
In spite of the Mississippi Legislature's earnest enactments a few days ago of legislation calculated to actually begin equalization of educational facilities, there is no implication of any breakdown of segregation. This same Legislature last fall appointed a recess committee on education to spend the summer seeking legal means for evading the court decision before actual implementation of the decision is ordered. Other Southern legislative groups have appointed similar bodies to explore methods of legally putting off what the court clearly intended as its ultimate purpose. Intelligent men are working on these plans and it is unrealistic to believe that all of their efforts are foredoomed. New legal tests involving new Supreme Court decisions seem the more likely result of these Southern tactics and that in itself will require time. Each evasive program the South attempts will have to be tested for its Constitutional value.
Desegregation in other fields of social contact will be fought with the same resolution. The men who are planning this great evasion are purposeful people who, each for his own reason, is willingly giving of his time and talents to preserve the Southern folkways.
Mr. Karsell, a Nieman Follow, wrote this article at the request of the CRIMSON. He is Mahaging Editor of the Mississippi Delta Democrat-Times.
However wrong, or right, these men may be, the present effect of the court ruling in the Deep South is nil-save for the mental gymnastic it has caused politicians charged by their white fellow Southerners with preventing racial mingling. Negro children are still attending their same old schools; too aften housed in shamefully shabby buildings. The Southern white school kids, and most college students, are back in their all-white institutions again this fall. The same studied ignorance of the historic decision is being practiced on almost every level of racial contact. There are, of course, exceptions, but these do not make any impression other than that of curiosity, or perhaps anger, in the Deep South.
Plainly, true abolition of this age-old system won't become the practiced rule for a long time to come. Those thoughtful Southerners, and there are many, who earnestly seek betterment of the Negro in the south are most often of the considered opinion that an immediate desegregation of the races would bring tragic results. Even now, a Kian-like organization is again stirring in Mississippi, where the Klan has been mercifully buried for years. Elsewhere throughout the Deep South there are being awakened old hatreds and fearful distrust. These Southern who, in the South, work for racial understanding cannot be blamed for recalling the days or Klan terror when their Northern critics demand an immediate change. The same enlightened Southerners point with justifiable pride to the immense and recent progress made in Negro education and social improvement. They fear that the great strides which have been made toward a solid understanding between the races will be wiped away by a forced desegregation. Virtually all of the respected, liberal voices of the South are urging a program of intensified school building for Negro children as well as a long-range industrialization to raise the living standard of the negro, but none yet has suggested that either race is prepared for what they consider the socially traumatic experience of complete amalgamation.
The few Southern whites who proposes immediate desegregation have no more general influence than these Negro Professionals who boldly promise presently unattainable levelling of all racial inequalities. Both are looked upon as crackpots by responsible Southern leaders of both races.
Professional white supremacy agitators will always have an appeal to those whites who live in densely Negro populations and compete with Negroes for employment. The Southern politician of the Bilbo school has been keeping himself in office for years by kindling the unemployment fears of poverty-ridden whites.
The South is generally in accord that a huge education program is the most pressing need for the Negro population just now. There is virtually no opposition to plans to construct white-equal but segregated Negro school systems which the South has promised and should have provided years ago. So also does the Southerner know that a general strengthening of the overall economic standard is prerequisite to making much of the marginal South into an area which will support a harmonious Negro-white relationship.
Right or wrong, the South, through its white leaders of varied opinions, will resist with all its strength any effort to force segregation's end. The end of that resistance doesn't seem to be anywhere in sight in the Deep South now