Series on Negro in South Draws Readers' Questions
From a Mississippi Correspondent
The letters which follow comment on a series of three articles, "The Negro in th South", which appeared in the CRIMSON December 1 through 3. These articles were compiled from personal letters written by David L. Halberstam '55 to his brother, Michael J. Halberstam '53. David Halberstam was Managing Editor of the CRIMSON last year, and is at present a reporter for the West Point, Miss., Daily Times-Leader, as well as a contributor to the Reporter magazine. After hearing several of the letters by long-distance telephone, Mr. Halberstam has written a general reply, also published below.
No Definite Contribution
To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
I was very much engrossed by Mr. David L. Halberstam's article in the December edition of the CRIMSON. His main thesis, it appears to me, is that the actions of the NAACP and Life magazine have caused the South to retreat to its old position of distrust of the North and to white supremacy." This retreat is due, says Mr. Halberstam, to emotionalism on the part of the NAACP.
If the above is granted as being a true representation of the picture, I still cannot see where Mr. Halberstam has contributed much to the clarification of the larger issue which is contingent upon the particulars of the Emmett Till case. It is this part of Mr. Halberstam's argument that I wish to fill in, since without this, his article seems pointless and vacuous.
The fundamental reason for such a thing as the Emmett Till episode ... rests upon the archaic ideology of the southern people as a majority. I interpret ideology here in the Webster sense as the "aggregate of ideas, beliefs, doctrines of a large group of persons". This ideology has lead the Southerners to spew forth such statements as the following: "If Roy and J. W. (referring to Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam, the defendants in the Till case) are convicted of murder...where under the shining sun is the land of the free and the home of the brave?" Or more inclusive is the statement: "Evry last Anglo-Saxon one of you men in this jury has the courage to set those men free."
Now I heartily agree with Mr. Halberstam that emotionalism on the part of the NAACP did nothing to further the "cause of better racial relations." But in a sense this is a particular instance in a larger sphere that has not a great deal of significance in the ultimate analysis of the Southern ideology.
The point which I believe Mr. Halberstam to have missed is that the Southern position represents an extreme case in a manner of thinking which permeates, in varying degrees, a large segment of the Western world or more precisely, a great majority of the "Caucasian" world...
Where he could have contributed something definite, Mr. Halberstam instead prefers to indulge in vague propositions such as"...the whole state was aroused against the crime, and anxious to see justice done." The first part of this statement is highly conjectural, while the latter part begs for definition. What does he mean by justice? Wasn't justice promulgated when Bryant and Milan were exonerated. Many white southerners would think so. The bare and ugly fact remains that there is no such thing as justice for a Negro in the South if we interpret justice to mean a minimum amount of fairness. I need not pursue this point any further; the legal history of the south in relation to its Negro inhabitants leaves little room for quibbling here. The interested reader may well begin, on this point, with Chief Justice Taney's 1854 decision in the Dred-Scott case.
In conclusion, I put forth the proposition that Mr. Halberstam has missed the point in his analysis of the Till case. His manner of thinking has restricted him to the immediate consequences, and he has not envisaged these consequences as being important only so far as they affect the entity of social thought.
This is to be regretted, because the significance of the Till case could not have been much clearer to Mr. Halberstam if he had been familiar with the Scottsboro case of the 1930's, when nine men were railroaded to death and to jail, and almost nothing of the furor of the Till case was heard.
Finally, Mr. Halberstam appears highly impressed by the actions of Dr. David Minter and Gene Cox. The actions of these men may be seen, according to my interpreation of Mr. Halberstam's position, as pointing the way to a solution of the Southern position. This, I believe, is a fanciful notion. The solution is not so simple and for this reason I leave it to the others who are much better informed. But one thing is certain, and that is, when one is treating social relations as they exist in America today, the world situation should make him stop and reflect along with Dean Swift in a Tale of a Tub, that, "...When a man's fancy gets astride of his Reason, when Imagination is at Cuffs with the Senses, and common Understanding, as well as common Sense is kicked out Doors; the first Proselyte he makes is Himself, and when that is once compasse'd, the Difficulty is not so great in bringing over others..." Robert C. Vowels 1G