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Editorial: Red Monkey wrenches in Levittown

This editorial originally appeared on March 18, 1949.

Both the Democratic and Republican parties in their platforms last year pledged themselves to back civil rights legislation. Now that a filibustering southern minority has managed to block national fulfillment of that pledge, it is up to the state governments in the north to do the job individually and separately. There are encouraging signs that state legislators are aware of the responsibility.

New Jersey this week passed legislation to fight racial and religious discrimination by outlawing it in hotels, restaurants, bars, theaters, swimming pools, bath houses, boardwalks, gymnasiums and bowling alleys. Minnesota is acting on a fair employment practices measure modeled after those of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut – states in which that law has worked so well that no case of violation has ever reached the courts.

This type of enlightened law-making emphasizes conference, conciliation, persuasion and education. It provides guidance rather than compulsion. And it works. Once it becomes universal in the north, southern states can be expected to catch the idea and spirit of tolerance and brotherhood from the north. But progress of this kind can be achieved only by using the light rein of reason, not by cracking the whip, in the north as well as in the south.

Among the Would-Be Whip-Crackers – are those super-zealous “reformers” dominated, inspired, or egged on by Communists, including our local friends of the American Labor Party. They have squawked like crazy at an editorial printed here last Saturday that denounced their forcing a racial issue at Levittown. They admit they framed a “test case” against a “Caucasians only” clause in Levittown leases. They think that was pretty smart of them. Maybe it was. But not if they have the best interests of the Negro sincerely at heart.

In a letter to Newsday this week, Henry Doliner, executive secretary of the ALP, came up with a brilliant solution to a great and complex social problem. “The only way to eliminate Jimcrow,” wrote Doliner, “is simply to eliminate it.” Now why didn’t somebody think of that before!

Other people commenting on last Saturday’s editorial think we were upholding Levitt’s stand against admitting Negroes to Levittown housing. One, the secretary of the Nassau-Suffolk Communist Party, yammers that we “evaded” the question of the Caucasians-only clause in Levitt’s leases. She might also have charged that we evaded the question of vivisection and opium smuggling in the same editorial. We happened to be writing about something else that day.

It Seems Strange – that anyone who lives on Long Island should suspect Newsday of defending anyone who practices any type of racial or religious discrimination. Newsday never did, never does, never will. That goes for Levitt the same as for anyone else.

Three years ago we had a Negro-housing scrap of our own when New York hotels refused to accommodate our Golden Glovers as a team because some of the boys were colored. We raised hell, won our point, and the white and colored fighters roomed and ate together during the tournament. The question never came up again once we got it settled. But that was no cooked-up “test case.”

White and colored boys have the same accommodations and recreations at Camp Newsday, our summer vacation campo for carrier boys. Get along fine, too.

If Newsday owned Levittown there would be no Caucasians-only clause in the leases. We suspect that the discriminatory clause is there not because of Levitt’s prejudice but because he thinks most tenants and buyers are prejudiced. We hope he is wrong. We know discrimination is wrong at Levittown as everywhere else in the U.S.A. It doesn’t take a pack of trouble-making red rovers to tell us that.

Long Island Negroes should be aware that when left-wingers go to bat for them the motives are not philanthropic. And the effects are harmful to the whole struggle to give colored people an even break.