Eleanor Roosevelt – My Day: February 8-14

February 9, 1948

“HYDE PARK, Sunday—I went to speak for one of the Y.M.C.A. groups at New York University Medical College late Friday afternoon, and I was interested to see that a good cross section of our New York City population was represented in the audience. There were Protestants, Catholics and Jews, as well as boys of many racial strains, including Negroes. It was easy to talk to them about human rights and the United Nations, for many of them knew, either from personal experience or through affiliations with different people, what the abrogation of human rights means to any group of people.

In this connection I would like to say a word about the reception accorded by a group of Southern Democratic Senators and Representatives to the President’s message sent with the report of his Committee on Civil Liberties. Anyone who has worked in the international field knows well that our failure in race relations in this country, and our open discrimination against various groups, injures our leadership in the world. It is the one point which can be attacked and to which the representatives of the United States have no answer.

I wish these Southern gentlemen had a little more faith in the white race and believed that we were capable of associating with and doing justice to another race without of necessity being swallowed up by that race. It seems to me that this hue and cry on the subject of segregation is nothing but an expression of fear. This fear is more understandable in the South, where in certain areas a larger section of the population is colored. Yet if proper conditions existed and there was equal opportunity for education, for economic security and for decent living, there need be no fear. It is because we do not grant civil and economic rights on an equal basis that there is any real reason for fear.

There can be no real democracy where 15,000,000 people feel that they are discriminated against and cannot live on equal terms with their neighbors. Neither will there be real unity in this country until we conquer our prejudices. All of us have them in one form or another, but the time has come when the fight must be made by each one of us to live at home in a way which will make it possible to live peacefully in the world as a whole…”

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