To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
The Law School Forum of Friday, March 24, raised many eyebrows, but in the raising caused an equal number of eyes to be stretched open to a set of very hard foots about the racial situation in the United States. The very existence of such an organization as the Black Muslims, who confess to rapid growth, is in itself demonstrative of several facts. These facts have already received emphatic, if recumbent, expression in the sit-in movements of early 1961. The American Negro resolutely announces that the second half of the 20th century shall witness the completion of his emancipation from inferior status.
Both the sit-ins and the Black Muslim movements demonstrate that the new drive for elevation is not confined to the spotlighting of a few black individuals, as was characteristic of the Black Renaissance of the 1920s and '30s. Now, "lifting as they climb," the leaders have set in motion the whole mass of the now restricted people of colour. It is the people whose voice we now hear, not the protest of a lonely W. E. B. duBois or James Weldon Johnson.
The fact that the quest for dignity has had to take the form of a militant march indicates how dangerous can be drowsy and complacent inertness in decades demanding fresh social attitudes. The reality of Black Islam also attests to the fact that traditional reform agencies are invested with neither the vigour nor the spiritual force demanded by contemporary black folk. To put it quite bluntly, Negroes want a revolution in racial relations, which traditional agencies are not supplying. However, the bast majority of American Negroes, bent as they are on social elevation, know themselves to be American first and Negro as a matter of colorful variation in the national mosaic. This is precisely why it is highly doubtful that the Black Muslim movement will be the vehicle of the Negroes attainment of social equality; it cannot entertain the sympathy of most American black folk because it is out of focus with the past national heritage and the future American possibilities. Not two nations, but one undivided American nation is what is wanted. Nor will it in the long run reward the allegiance of those who in justifiable frustration turn to Black Islam for affirmation of their humanity.
It is our obligation to make sure that the remainder of the 20th century eradicates the conditions spawning such separatist movements in order to avoid the tragic consequences of similar "cargo cults." The "Messiah" who appeared to the Western Indians about 1890 also promised them an Armageddon with a postscript of a land of "milk and honey" reserved exclusively for red men, of course. The result was gunpowder, chaos and tragedy for those who tried to hurry Armageddon, and those who maintained quiet hopes must still be waiting. Spencer C. D. Jourdain '61