Races: Freedom--Now

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Negroes' goals are not in reach of court decisions any longer." It Could Happen Anywhere. Birmingham therefore set off a chain reaction—uncontrolled. New lunch-counter sit-ins started in Atlanta, Nashville and Raleigh. The N.A.A.C.P. called for peaceful sympathy demonstrations in 100 cities. Jackie Robinson, now a vice president of Chock Full O' Nuts, said he would go to Birmingham to join in the Negro protest. So did Floyd Patterson. Communism was having a field day. Gloated Radio Moscow: "We have the impression that American authorities both cannot and do not wish to stop outrages by racists." Perhaps most baleful of all, the Black Muslim movement within the U.S. Negro community took full recruiting advantage of the Birmingham riots. The Black Muslims do not seek integration; they want total separation of the races, with Negroes not only independent but, if possible, superior. Now Malcolm X, top Eastern torchbearer for the militant movement, could only sneer at Martin Luther King's gospel of nonviolence. Said he: "The lesson of Birmingham is that the Negroes have lost their fear of the white man's reprisals and will react with violence, if provoked. This could happen anywhere in the country today." Last week, at the crest of the crisis, a white Birmingham waitress said to a customer from the North: "Honey, I sure hope the colored don't win. They've winned so much around the South. Why, you go down and get on a bus, and a nigger's just liable to sit right down beside you. Oh, that's hurt Birmingham somethin' awful." Neither Malcolm X nor the Birmingham waitress represents the majority of their races. But they do represent and symbolize two fixed positions: the Negro who looks with eagerness toward a militant solution, and the unyielding Southerner who hopes not to be further disturbed. There are many other positions, and there is a long gaping valley of confusion and diffusion. It is a great uncharted space where leaders follow and followers lead, for there is no certainty of plan or purpose there. Negro Author James Baldwin (see following pages) has illuminated this grey gulf with bolts of intellectual lightning. Baldwin cries out in hopelessness and helplessness as he gazes across the gulf. For that gulf cannot be bridged by law alone; the law can furnish a foundation upon which Negroes can build to achieve their rights, but it cannot provide education, or cure poverty, or enforce understanding, or give body to an old-fashioned thing called humanity.

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