In response to:
What We Want from the September 22, 1966 issue
To the Editors:
I want to respond to Stokely Carmichael’s article.
First of all, I think that Mr. Carmichael’s article is to be much welcomed by all those who were wondering just what “black power” meant and what Mr. Carmichael, SNCC and CORE “wanted.” This article is most clear and explicit. Secondly, let me say that I agree generally with Mr. Carmichael’s analysis and program as expressed, so that my following comments won’t be construed as fundamental criticisms of his article.
What I would like to say is this: as a Southerner, I am aware that much of our racial problem has lain in the fact that there has been simply no, or very little, contact between the races, native as this may sound. No contact leads to the state that a member of neither race really knows one of the other as a person. He rather knows the other as a White (or Negro, or White Conservative, or Uncle Tom, or White Liberal or Negro Radical, etc.). Mr. Carmichael urged Whites to organize and work in White Communities if they wish to “do something.” And rightly so. But I feel that it is vitally important that all meaningful contacts between races be maintained. I think it is also important (and it will become more so in the future) that Negroes meet Whites who aren’t racists or grudging moderates. It is just as important that Negroes see Whites as human beings as it is that Whites see Negroes as human beings. Surely Mr. Carmichael and SNCC have nothing to fear from that.
Just as SNCC and others feel that it is vital for the Negro self-image, his personal and collective psychology, to be able to respond to Negro leaders and politicians (not just White liberal-leaders), I feel that it is just as vital for the collective mental health of Negroes and Whites to know and trust each others as individuals, as teachers, as organizers, or even as political leaders. Otherwise we’ll have more of the same old thing.
Don’t cut off the contacts completely.