THE SHOTGUN KILLINGS of Denver A. Smith and Leonard Douglas Brown--two 20 year-old black students at Southern University's Baton Rouge campus--have once again shown the dark and violent underside of American race relations. From this distance the cloud of tear-gas that covered the incident has not lifted and it is no more clear why the shot-gun shells were fired than who ordered not equipped police on the campus.
However, it is clear that the real responsibility for these deaths lies not so much with one man or one gun as with the diseased structure of Southern public education Black college administrators, like Southern's President. Dr. G. Leon Netterville, are forced to take hats in hand in order to obtain substance funding from white legislators, notorious for a traditional lack of concern for black people and for education in general.
This necessity has alternated them from their students and their students from them to the point that Louisiana's moderate Governor, Edwin W. Edwards, has commented on the Southern tragedy. "I'm a white man and Dr. Netterville is a black man, but I come nearer to understanding those students than he does."
The dilemma of such men as Netterville stems from his position in an educational system in which difference to whites is an occupational necessity. However, the perpetuation of separate and unequal schooling in the South in more the result of national tolerance of it than it is the product of black administrators in their compromised position. Only their efforts have made it possible for black education to survive at all in an atmosphere of malignant neglect. For too long, they have had to battle alone.
We deplore the senseless shootings at Southern, but more, we deplore the continuation of the educational system that has bred the chronic and pointless violence which has visited Orangeburg, Jackson State and now Southern.
As long as our tolerance of that system continues, we have no reason to hope that the violence will end. It is now a time for national intolerance.