Touching our every-day lives at even more points than the Church and the school, and most profoundly affecting the home, is the organized machinery of the government. Through its arms of city, county, and local community, the national and state governments fix the conditions surrounding all our activities in work time and leisure time. Public school support is determined by government. The safeguards of the family, the home, and the Church are made by it. So far as concerns the Negro, the officers of the law - policemen, constables, school boards, health inspectors, judges of the courts, and the like, - all white men as a rule, - embody for him the meaning of the State and the law. And there can be no getting around the fact that this contact for the Negro in America is not, as a rule, a pleasant experience. When in cities like Atlanta, Chicago or Washington, the nation's capital, Negroes did not get proper protection from the police during the bombing of their homes or the mobbing of their men and had to resort to arms in their own defense, when they did not get reparation in the courts after the trouble, one sees not isolated atrocities that just "happened," but extreme examples of a tacit procedure which has failed to place Negro Americans fully within the law.
This cannot continue with safety to white men and women. If Negroes are not eligible to police forces and are not given equal standing in the courts, the white community pays the penalty from the inability of white officers to prevent crime and apprehend criminals. So long as the state and Federal governments regard Negroes as persons to be taxed but not to be represented by those of their own free choice, radial cooperation will be hobbled, and democracy cannot function. The Negro people comprise about one-tenth of the nation. In different localities they range from one to fifty per cent of the population. May any community or its leaders expect general and permanent progress in health and morals, in law and order, or in other public matters until the Negro neighborhood is recognized as an integral part of the community, and its citizens are given an opportunity freely to participate?
Voluntary organizations may coordinate interracial activities. Let us look now at the voluntary agencies that have grown up more or less spontaneously to supplement the work of the home, the school, the Church, and the State. The examples described earlier in the chapter illustrate what an effective coordinating force such organizations may be. In almost every Negro locality there are one or more secret societies that wield a wide influence. Almost every community, white and Negro, has its women's club, men's club, commercial organizations, labor organizations, farmers' organizations, Christian Associations, and welfare or social service societies. These are most valuable avenues for amicable relations by means of joint committees of the two races, exchange of speakers, and councils and conferences to plan and to work for mutual ends. The interracial organizations that may be built up from these separate group agencies are most effective when made up of responsible representatives of agencies as are described in this chapter. The exact form of such interracial organizations or committees may vary to meet local conditions. There is now enough information from experiments of the past years in such cities as Nashville, Atlanta, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and other cities, and such rural localities as Calhoun, Ala., Adams County, Miss., and Nottaway County, Va., to serve as suggestions for almost any community.
Some cardinal principles have already come to the surface out of past experience. First, constructive plans and work to meet some definite needs of a part or all the community, rather than lengthy discussions of "the race problem," are the surest way to develop interest and to hold it. The American impulse is to act. Discussion that aims toward action is the only kind which does not soon kill interest and enthusiasm.
Second, it is not sufficient merely to fight evils and to cure community sores. Treatment for typhoid and tuberculosis are certainly needed when those ills appear. Opposition to mobs and lynchers are needed, God knows. An ounce of prevention, however, is worth ten pounds of cure. Constructive social betterment to improve conditions of Negroes and promote friendly race relations on the farms, in the factories, schools, trains, streets, mar-ket-places, and elsewhere and thus prevent racial clashes, is far more important and effective than social medicine to palliate the eruptions that break out from chronic community evils.
Third, any community that attempts such preventive efforts may well map out a definite program of work. It may not be exhaustive or wide in scope, but it should be definite, be aimed at specific needs, and calculated to bring results which all the people may see. Where vision, patience, and financial support are available, a careful survey of the field may well be made, and a program of work be prepared from the facts obtained, before other activities are undertaken. The time is not far away, let us hope, when those with money will see the need of some national interracial effort for a cooperative clearing house to promote such local cooperation. The churches have here the opportunity to serve America and the world.
Fourth, the personnel of such community organization is of two types: the community-minded citizens, white and Negro, with interracial tolerance, and the executive, specially trained in social work. The first type of persons should come into mutual council or organizations as representatives of agencies or organized group and racial interests. They are the ones, and the only ones, competent to adopt plans and settle policies which will affect the daily lives of all. Professional social service agents or experts can do no more than get these groups together and lay facts and ideas before them. The people of both races can be led to the waters of wisdom, but they themselves must decide to drink.