U.S. BISHOPS ON SEGREGATION
RACIAL segregation cannot be reconciled with the Christian view of our fellow man, say the Catholic bishops of the United States in a statement released at their annual meeting. Most of the 220 bishops and archbishops attended.
The bishops give two fundamental reasons: Firstly, legal segregation, or any form of compulsory segregation, in itself and by its very nature imposes a stigma of inferiority upon the segregated people.
Even if the now obsolete Court doctrine of " separate but equal" had been carried out to the fullest extent, so that all public and semipublic facilities were in fact equal, there is nonetheless the judgment that an entire race, by the sole fact of race and regardless of individual qualities, is not fit to associate on equal terms with members of another race.
Second, it is a matter of historical fact that segregation in the United States has led to oppressive conditions and the denial of basic human rights for the Negro. This is evident in the fundamental fields of education, job opportunity and housing. Flowing from these areas of neglect and discrimina
lion are problems of health and the sordid train of evils so often associated with the consequent slum conditions.
One of the tragedies of racial oppression, the statement says, is that these evils are being used as excuses to continue the very conditions that so strongly fostered such evils.
" Today we are told that Negroes, Indians, and some Spanish-speaking Americans differ too much in culture and achievements to be assimilated in our schools, factories and neighbourhoods.
Some decades back the same charge was made against the immigrant Irish, Jewish, Italian, Polish, Hungarian, German, Russian.
In both instances differences were used by some as the basis for discrimination and even for bigoted ill-treatment. The immigrant. fortunately, has achieved his rightful status in the American community. Economic opportunity was wide open and educational equality was not denied him.
" Negro citizens seek the same opportunities. They wish an education that does not carry with it any stigma of inferiority. They wish economic advancement based on merit and skill. They wish their civil rights as American citizens. They wish acceptance based upon proved ability and achievement. No one who truly loves God's children will deny them this opportunity."
The bishops concluded that they hoped and earnestly prayed that " responsible and sober-minded Americans of all religious faiths, in all areas of the land, would seize the mantle of leadership from the agitator and the racist."
" It is vital that we act now and act decisively. All must act quietly, courageously and prayerfully before it is too late".