Drama Vs. Reality
The crowd has gone home. The rubbish has been swept up. The dust has settled
once again around the reflection pool between Washington monument and Lincoln
memorial. It was a great show and applause is now in order.
The reviewers, however, are not making any predictions about the consequences.
From every seat it appears the historic civil rights march upon the nation's
capital was momentous inspiration, yet in reality only a gesture.
Massive and orderly as it was, there is small chance that the march by some
200,000 Negroes and their sympathizers will advance the cause of opportunity
to the point at which it was directed. The fault is not difficult to detect.
Basically the parade was to call attention to the plight of the Negro race
in the United States. Theoretically the march offered a momentous opportunity
to capture the interest of everyone in the nation's capital from the U. S. President
down through Congress to office worker and school pupil. There can be no question
that by sheer numbers alone the demonstration was impressive. An estimated 200,000
In practice, however, the scheme has raised questions about its effectiveness.
The main fault was that, like circus trucks and fire wagons, it attracted a
lot of persons who went along just for the ride. They are the types who enjoy
making a big noise for the sake of being noisy. The next day they cannot tell
you what the shouting was about.
In practice, too, the march had an oblique mission and very little actual chance
of speeding racial changes. Even friendly members of the two houses said they
doubted their fellows would be influenced to adopt different viewpoints. The
fact was that Congress was more engrossed in preventing a rail strike Wednesday
than it was in the mammoth parade.
Insofar as the general public, outside the South, was concerned the Negro's
plight no longer needs a demonstration parade to attain recognition. Like every
other minority group, the Negroes' difficulties are realized and the tide has
turned. But millions of Americans will still insist that individual ability,
and not identification with a group, should determine a man's place in society.
Success is never easy. Thousands in the freedom march believed their action
would turn the world upside down: they will be disappointed. Many other thousands
hoped it would show the backing non-Negroes enjoy throughout the nation; their
point was recognized but doubtless emphasized on Wednesday.
Now this demonstration is over, all its participants should return home planning
less dramatic but more effective ways of improving the Negro's lot and, indeed,
the lives of all who have not been accorded equality of rights in modern society.