Civil Rights: Retrospect and Prospects

Civil Rights: Retrospect and Prospects

Civil Rights: Retrospect and Prospects

Civil Rights: Retrospect and Prospects

Excerpt

History is a search for truth, a ferreting out of facts and placing of those facts in proper cause and effect relationship. Encyclopedic knowledge of mere facts is next to valueless, and even a proper understanding of the cause and effect relationship in history is of no great utility unless the experience, though it may not be totally applicable, is used in the solution of problems that face us or as a guide to action that will prevent recurring problems from becoming acute and disruptive to our social, economic, and political order.

Without reviewing the entire history of the United States, we may use the roots from our late colonial and our national history to discuss a problem that today is too often viewed in light of the individual's unrooted but deeply biased opinions, with no regard to what other people may feel or how they might be affected. Naturally, freedom to act as one pleases must end at the line where we violate the freedom, privilege, natural right, or basic and indigenous dignity of some other individual. At the same time, we cannot say, as some have said, that because one segment of our society has committed an injustice against another segment it is proper that the first group should suffer at the hands of the second. Rejection of this eye-for-an-eye and tooth-for-a-tooth philosophy is prerequisite to any basic understanding of, or any tentative solution to, the problems involved.

The problem of securing the rights of a minority group is one that has never given way to a quick or easy solution and has so often been made acute by differences in color. For people of the present day to approach this issue with understanding and reason, rather than with emotion, it must be properly related to its historical background. Indeed, the recognition of the attempted adjustment of the races as a problem indicates that the whole subject is on the . . .

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