To the Editors of The Crimson:
I was very interested in the Crimson article (Jan. 8) on the new Pentacostal association founded last year by a small group of Harvard Black students--the Seymour Society. Christian activity has always been central to the life of Afro-Americans and has offered Blacks one of their most viable connections with American society and culture, as well as providing Blacks their first experience with managing soverign institutions. But Christian activity has also offered Blacks and whites one of the few viable means for bridging the differences that have divided them in our racist civilization. From the early endeavors to educate Afro-American slaves, through the Abolitionist Movement, and the 20th century Civil Rights Movement, Christian beliefs and organizations have often been the cutting-edge against white supremacist negation of Afro-Americans.
It is unfortunate, I feel, that the new Seymour Society leaders display no awareness of this important cross-ethnic or cross-racial function that has been a crucial part of Afro-American Christianity. It is, I think, a feature of the Afro-American Christian tradition that the new Seymour Soceity, if it really wants to do something innovative, might consider rehabilitating.
Being an old-fashioned integrationist and an optimist about the capacity of the current generation of young Americans to rid American life of its hoary racist ways, I would suggest to the Seymour Society that they give some thought to this endeavor. Instead of pursuing the route of other all-Black organizations existing at Harvard--and we have too many already--intensifying the already excessive isolation of white and Black student experiences here, why not strike out a new course for once?
There are, I am told, other fundamentalist or back-to-basic religious groups around Harvard--among white Protestants and white charismatic Catholics, and perhaps among some white Muslims and Jews. It would be a bold undertaking to use the Seymour Society as the cutting-edge of a back-to-basic renascence among religiously inclined Harvard students, cutting across the racist, sexist, and ethnocentric boundaries that have for so long distorted the civilizing force of religious values in American life.
This, I submit, is both an intellectually intriguing and humanistically engaging task for the new Seymour Society to set for itself. It would give Black students the opportunity to innovate a way out of the awful malaise that has surrounded Black-white interactions at Harvard for a decade--a malaise that has exacted a terribly intellectual toll among some of our Black students. It would, in turn, offer white students a framework to testify in behalf of a more cosmopolitan interchange among Harvard students, defying the racist and ethnocentric boundaries bequeathed them by earlier generations. Martin Kilson Professor of Government