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in the State system. In the North, the private prejudices of the persons selecting jurymen may be more subtle-in some cases even unconscious—but the ultimate result is often the same-juries that conform to the selector's concept of what a jury should be, rather than one composed of a representative cross section of the community. In some cases—such as my own State of New York—these prejudices are reinforced by statutory standards requiring ownership of property or payment of specified taxes as qualifications. That the bill before the subcommittee seeks to eliminate these practices indicates it is not regionally oriented.
Conditions that exist nationwide require that there be a new, speedy, nondiscriminatory jury selection system, under which the authority of the individual selector or selectors is replaced by an automatic system of choosing those who serve.
Closely associated with the jury system is the prosecution of crimes against Negroes and against civil rights workers, Negro and white, because of their pursuit of racial justice. Too often have we seen such crimes go unpunished, either because of failure of local authorities to act, or because juries, selected under the conditions noted above, are more sympathetic to the criminals than to their obligation to see that justice is done.
The murders of Medgar Evers, William Moore, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, the four young girls in Birmingham, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Col. Lemuel Penn, Rev. James Reeb, Jonathan Daniels, Vernon Dahmer, Sanuel Young, and others, all as yet unpunished, cry out for removing the trial of racial killers from the control of local courts and juries which as President Johnson has said may tip the scales of justice one way for whites and another way for Negroes, and placing it in a forum more likely to mete out impartial justice. So long as such crimes go unpunished, none of us, white or colored, can be assured of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and by the great congressional enactments of recent years. Rights exercised in fear are not rights at all. To us it is both fitting and logical that Federal rights should as far as possible be protected in Federal courts.
We were, therefore, gratified to see the response of the Attorney General, set out in title V of the bill, to the invitation that the Supreme Court extended in the Guest and Price cases. It is a matter of the most urgent national policy that we protect in full the basic civil rights that have far too often been jeopardized by unruly mobs, by the Klan, by terrorists who strike in the dark, and by other unlawful elements, some, unfortunately, who wear the badges of officers of the law.
We are most hopeful that vigorous enforcement of these provisions when enacted will serve as a deterrent to those who have often relied on their locally administered brand of "justice” to protect them from just punishment for their deeds. We look forward to the day when constitutional rights may be exercised without fear of reprisal.
Having skipped to the last substantive title of the bill, I will now return in regular sequence to title III, dealing with desegregation of public facilities and public schools and authorizing the Attorney General to file suit to require that schools and other facilities be operated free from discrimination. And on that section having to do with the added powers of the Attorney General in school desegregation cases, it is well to remember that it is 12 years—that was on May 17, 1954–in which it was held racial segregation in the public schools to be inherently unequal and hence unconstitutional.
This month thousands of colored schoolchildren who entered first grade after that great decision was rendered by the Supreme Court will graduate from high school without having benefited from that ruling. Their entire elementary-secondary school life will have been spent in a condition of inherent inequality. Unless significant changes occur in the immediate future, additional thousands of children will be totally denied the benefits of the Brown decision. For, as the President has pointed out in his message to Congress on this legislation, only 1 in 13 colored children in the South attends school with white children; and I must say that many informed sources consider this estimate to be on the optimistic side. In the North thousands more colored students spend their entire school careers in de facto segregation.
If I may interject here, Mr. Chairman, only this morning the New York Times recorded a report of the Board of Education of the City of New York, in which officially the board pointed out that in the past recent years, de facto segregated schools in the city of New York, that is those composed predominantly of Puerto Rican or Negro or both have "sharply increased" so that the question of de facto segregation is one squarely before the Congress. It is not a historical matter. It is right here in our own presence.
Senator KENNEDY of Massachusetts. And what you are suggesting by that observation is that it should be a national goal and a national policy if we are going to realize the spirit of the Brown case, and that we have an obligation to institute positive steps to insure that de facto segregation is eliminated. Is that correct?
Mr. WILKINS. Yes, Senator, and I would say, sir, if I may be permitted to do so, that your own advocacy in the State of Massachusetts against imbalance, racial imbalance in the schools and your own record there is one entirely in keeping with the spirit of this legislation and with the needs of the day.
Massachusetts under the stimulation of leaders like yourself and others in your State has taken official action against racial imbalance in the schools and directed its cities to correct such imbalance on pain of having their State assistance withdrawn, and it is interesting to note that only this week the School Committee of Boston, Mass., and I am sure I am not telling you anything new
Senator KENNEDY of Massachusetts. That is right.
Mr. Wilkins (continuing). Has reversed itself and voted unanimously to begin a program of correction of imbalance because some $1 million in State aid has been withheld from the Boston schools. I think this is in line with your own suggestion.
Senator KENNEDY of Massachusetts. It is. The point that is still somewhat distressing, Mr. Wilkins, is that the board in Boston still has not really agreed on a final program for the bussing of students. They are meeting at the present time as you quite accurately pointed out. The State is presently withholding funds. However, I am certainly hopeful, as you are, that there can be reached, in the not too distant future, a solution to the problem.
I would like to make a comment on this particular subject. I think the opportunity of withholding funds in situations such as this is something which the Congress should carefully consider. I have introduced legislation that would provide for various school communities the opportunity to receive Federal assistance and Federal funds when a school board or a school district is atttempting to reach a racial balance.
This would provide funds first of all for different kinds of technical help and assistance in drawing up boundaries and redesignating boundaries to provide a point of balance.
Secondly, it would provide funds for transportation to help and assist students who want to go to other schools. Funds would also be available to consider necessary curriculum changes.
This would not be coercive in any way, but it would offer aid to those communities and school districts which desire assistance in achieving a better balance.
Mr. WILKINS. Yes.
Senator KENNEDY of Massachusetts. I know you haven't had an opportunity to consider it, but I am just wondering about the possibility of two approaches. One, involving the restriction and the withholding of funds, the second, offering school districts the opportunity to receive Federal help and assistance, if they are sincerely interested in making adjustment. Do you feel that the first approach is worthy of consideration ?
Mr. Wilkins. Senator, I can say to that flatly and completely that our conference and our association has always been in favor of any inducements, legal and constitutional, to induce and assist the school boards and school districts in making this change. In fact, immediately after the 1954 decision, we were among the pioneer advocates of the so-called "carrot” approach, the assistance approach. This is a strange field.
Senator KENNEDY of Massachusetts. Yes.
Mr. Wilkins. They need assistance. It is an extraordinary drain on school budgets. They need help. They need the training of teacher's technicians, the study of boundaries, transportation problems, and all the things you have outlined.
Senator KENNEDY of Massachusetts. Yes.
Mr. WILKINS. In fact, we are for any constitutional assault that will accomplish the diminution and the abolition of de facto segregation in the North.
In that connection I would like to emphasize that point in our testimony on the freedom of choice matter which we touch upon.
We have always felt that the executive branch of Government had a speical obligation to implement the principles enunciated in the Court's school desegregation opinion. For this reason we supported titles III, IV, and VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But unfortunately the resistance to the right to enjoy equally the use of public schools and facilities has been so great that these provisions of law, while helpful, have not been able to secure the free exercise of constitutional rights. Discharge from employment, denial of credit, refusal to renew farm tenancy agreements and other economic pressures have been exerted against those seeking rights for themselves or their children. Where these tactics have proved ineffective, intimidations subtle and overt have been used.
The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was given the task of securing compliance with title VI.
Senator KENNEDY of Massachusetts. Mr. Wilkins, with your permission we will recess for just a few moments and then continue. I am needed in the Labor Committee.
Senator KENNEDY of Massachusetts. The subcommittee will come to order. I appreciate your indulgence, Mr. Wilkins. Continue.
Mr. WILKINS. Thank you, Senator Kennedy. I was saying in connection with de facto segregation and with segregation in the South which has been outlawed that previously existed by law, title VI of the 1964 civil rights bill and its enforcement were entrusted to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and that freedom of choice has been the battle cry of those who seek to cling to the status quo. But they have refused to allow the choice to be free. Studies and reports published and complaints filed by civil rights organizations, including American Friends Service Committee, SNCC, the Urban League, Southern Regional Council, the NAACP, the NAACP legal defense fund and others, show that time and time again the choice of parents has been thwarted by the organized opposition. Principals and teachers have been used to influence the selection of schools. Threats of failures, of nonparticipation in athletic events and other extracurricular activities, have been utilized. Discharges of colored teachers have been widespread. Transportation has been refused to colored children attending desegregated schools. They have been psychologically and physically harassed inside and outside of school while the authorities have done nothing. Violence and the threats of violence have been the last resort of the die-hard segregationists. Freedom of choice is segregation with a new ritual.
We regret, Mr. Chairman, that the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, either through its inability for lack of staff or because of the conviction of some of the people below the high administrative level and conviction of Secretary Gardner, is accepting the freedom of choice excuse of Southern States and southern school districts as evidence of compliance with title VI, and that as a matter of fact the southern political structure as represented by an impressive number of Senator and Governors has protested and resisted the socalled guidelines set down by HEW for the schools who are to comply with title VI.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Chairman, these guidelines we regard as being comparatively mild. They are not by any means as strict as we would have them be, nor did the Congress provide the funds which would enable HEW to police this title as we would like to have it policed. In effect, HEW here in Washington must accept an assurance from a school board in deep Florida or South Carolina or Mississippi or Texas which says that “We are in compliance, we have freedom of choice, and we have satisfied your guidelines,” when as a matter of fact even a casual inspection of the past record or the present activity would demonstrate that the guidelines are not being observed. I don't have to cite for this committee, I am sure, all of the examples of this kind of thing that have taken place.
Senator KENNEDY of Massachusetts. Mr. Wilkins, I have seen statistics that point out that there is only 1 Negro child in 12 attending schools which are integrated. Could you give me your general impression as to the accuracy of that figure?
Mr. Wilkins. Senator, our impression is that this is an optimistic estimate. I don't know, of course, statistics can be handled in a variety of ways.
Senator KENNEDY of Massachusetts. Yes.
Mr. WILKINS. But it is our belief from the information that we have, and we don't have the investigative facilities or the resources, financial resources to do a complete study, that to say that 1 in 12 or 1 in 13 is optimistic. It might be more nearly 1 in 20, and this is not amazing when you consider that in the first 10 years of the decision of the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education, the desegregation rate in Southern States and border States was at the rate of less than 1 percent a year, and that even in these statistics, desegregation was counted as where one Negro child attended one school in one school district, and that school district was then said to be desegregated and was counted among statistics.
Now less than that I think it was nine-tenths of 1 percent a year, that was the average rate, and the only reason it was as fat as that was because you had the averages of Tennessee and West Virginia and Oklahoma and Missouri and Kentucky, the so-called border States, to average against the Deep South States. Else it would have been nearer to four-tenths of 1 percent rather than nine-tenths of 1 percent. So that when we consider those statistics, Senator Kennedy, it is not unbelievable that the present rate is greater or less, depending on your point of view, than 1 in 12.
I will cite a few examples to show the range of tactics used. In Wilcox County, Ala., the school superintendent has written to the parents of the Negro students advising the children to return to their segregated schools, regardless of what the Federal Government does. In Coosa County, Ala., the loss of welfare benefits was threatened if requests for school transfers were not withdrawn. In Mitchell County, Ga., a parent was severely beaten; in Burke County in the same State, the home of a child attending a desegregated school was shot into. In a Maryland community a cross was burned on the lawn of a home where a student lived. These represent only a sampling of the coercive tactics used. The cumulative effect of intimidation and threats has been to discourage many parents from applying for transfer for their children; many more have withdrawn their children after their transfer to a desegregated school.
The authority of the Attorney General under the 1964 act to file school desegregation suits is inadequate. It requires a written complaint to invoke its use. The same conditions that discourage school transfer applications discourage complaints. It does little good to say that such complaints are confidential; the Negro leaders and parents in the community are well known to those who resort to terror. A new approach is needed under which the initiative for filing desegregation suits is placed in the Attorney General.