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To the Editors of the Harvard CRIMSON:
I would heartily concur with the objections raised by Messrs. Butler, Roberts, and Rothstein to the University's position on the state's Fair Employment Practices Act. I spent the summer in the South, working principally for voter registration, but also in other areas of discrimination, then returned to work with the Congress Of Racial Equality in my own town, the "all-American city" of Hartford, where I had the opportunity to compare the more subtle forms of northern discrimination with the institutionalized segregation of the South.
Curiously enough, I found the Northern forms of discrimination to be more frustrating to deal with, precisely because the concealment of discriminatory practices has been permitted. For example, when I spoke to the registrar of voters at the Hartford City Hall in order to obtain information for a badly needed voter registration campaign in Hartford's predominantly Negro districts, he stated flatly, "We don't keep figures on how many Negroes are registered." He then added, "I have a pretty good idea, but I'm not going to tell you. What are you bothering about them for, anyway? What race are you? Why don't you worry about your own race?" I left and eventually obtained my information quite simply from a precinct chart.
Any Northern employer may be expected to point with righteous pride to the fair practice laws of his state. Yet the abuse of these laws was brought to light by recent government investigations in the state of New York. These revealed that although no blank was left for race, nationality or religion on forms submitted to employment bureaus, many employers were skirting this by placing a small code, N.F.U. (not for us) in the corner of the forms.
These would be taken to indicate that either Negroes, Orientals, Jews or Puerto Ricans were not wanted for the position. It might not be too far-fetched to suppose that such codified discrimination exists in other Northern states as well.
In investigating discriminatory practices of one particular company, CORE found that the company, like most companies in the North, hired Negroes ... only in menial positions. Observation of the numbers of Negroes the company had in various jobs, and informal conversations held by white CORE members with supervisors, revealed that although it kept no records of numbers of Negroes hired (in concurrence with Fair Practices Laws), the company indeed had a tacit policy of not hiring or promoting Negroes to either clerical or public relations jobs of any kind.
CORE's action in such cases is first to negotiate, suggesting possible methods of opening up the company's hiring policy, then to wait. If no change or indication of willingness to change is forthcoming, CORE proceeds to more direct action, such as organizing pickets or encouraging consumer boycotts against the company.
The government must act in its own way to reduce employment discrimination as much as possible. In the North it is spectre-like, "now-you-see-it-now-you-don't," yet its grip is strong and far-reaching. None of us can afford to be sanguine about it. A university naturally feels itself to be a rather special type of community. Yet although discrimination is perhaps less likely in such a community, it is certainly not inconceivable. If there is indeed no discrimination, the University should lend sympathetic support to the government's program. Susan Schwartz '64.
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