More Box 722
June 6, 2008 - 12:57pm ET
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I'm incredibly gratified at the outpouring of response to my post yesterday on The Meaning of Box 722. In fact, I could write about the meaning of box 722 for days, for these are among the richest texts I've ever uncovered in my study of history. One thing to observe: over and over again, the Chicago Southwest Siders protesting open housing repeat a variant of the resident on 71st Street who averred that Congress "cannot legislate morals or love." The reason this is fascinating was that this was one of Barry Goldwater's constant refrains on the campaign trail in 1964 for why he didn't vote for the civil rghts act. Like most everywhere else, not many people on the Southwest Side of Chicago voted for Barry Goldwater. But clearly they heard what they had to say, and took it to heart, and repeated it verbatim two years later. It's a fascinating lesson in the mysterious ways political messages take hold.
Fascinating, too, in that it so perfectly encapsulates the obsession with which conservative cloak their every political decision, no matter how cruel in cause or effect, in protestations of their own pristine innocence. This claim was irrelevant: congressman trying to pass a law that said you couldn't refuse to sell your house to someone just because he was black weren't trying to make anyone "love" anyone else; the response merely begged the question. It's important to stress exactly what King's marchers were protesting: married black couples began visiting real estate offices in bucolic white neighborhoods and asked to be shown a home. They would be told there were none available. A similarly situated white couple made the same request, and would be given the red carpet treatment. On July 8 alone, in the neighborhood of Gage Park, the testers recorded 30 prima facie violations of Chicago's open housing ordinance.
See how Gage Park responded. These letters to Senator Douglas reward continued close reading, and I'm pleased to print more of them from when the 1966 Senate election, and deliberation on the federal open housing bill, heated up. Pay special attention to the ones that explain how Martin Luther King is just like Hitler.
August 9, 1966, from 5954 S. Kalin:
First on Demonstrations:
I think they are getting way out of hand and should be stopped. They no longer have leaders marching in orderly fashion. What was once a peaceful march now attracts trouble makerss and gangs. So many people yelling for equality, are not ready for it--they do not know how to read or write--do not care to hold down a steady job. They holler for education and do no go to school. It just doesn't make sense. All they keep asking for is what it took others many years to aquire. It is not fair.
By giving a person things he soon expects more. No one can realize what having something means, unless he himself works for it. The new laws soon will take the backbone away from a lot of people. Even I can visualize taking it easy and letting someone else foot the bill, because I'm not used to the best in life yet....
I don't say don't help the underprivileged, but there should be a limit somewhere. Now they are asking for more money and relief checks. Who will give the working man more and more--nobody--but they are being taxed more and more. How much of that can one take without rebellion....
The communists can take part in these demsontrations and no one could do anything about it..... Can you imagine the damage this country could suffer in just six motnsh with a law like that being passed. I shiver at the thought what the future holds for me and my family--if people like you do not re-examine the bills to be passed.... Laws are not made to quiet people for a while, they are passed for generations to come. So please when you vote on anything have the good of all people in mind, not just a situation that has to be quieted for now.
August 8, 6043 S. Washtenaw. This one refers to the police protection the marchers received from the violent mob:
yesterday the way the whites were being pushed around was really disgusting. The colored come and bring these disturbances in peaceful neighborhoods where epeople want to live decnetly and then have to be pushed around int heir own neighborhoods to give way to these trouble makers and they get all the protection. Why?
August 9, 4576 S. Mozart. My favorite:
It is my firm belief, and of all my neighbors, that King should be taken into custody, charged with fomenting civil rdisorder and anarchy--or, at the very least, enjoined from any firtjer marches into the white communities with the avowed purpsoe of proving that he is beyond the law which all the rest of us must obey.
Today, the insufferable arogance of this character places him on a pedestal as a dark-skinned Hitler.
August 12, 4912 N. Neenah:
The so-called civil rights gourps say, we live in slum areas, but whoever who created these so-called slum areas Honorable Sir? Not the white people, These peope must first lean how to upkeeep their respective places, like the white people live and do.
I never saw a robin bird reside together with a sparrow in one nest, and also I never saw a poor man living together with a rich man in his castle.
August 10, 3913 W. 58th St.:
Living in the target area, which the Negro's would like to over come--it is getting might uncomfortable. It isn't fair to us tax payers, parents of four children to let outside agitators upset us so. I believe with help from you and we'll support you, if you help this terrible situation. There is too much hate in his (King) power of words to do any race just rights. We love Chicag,o will support it, all we can do, is do our best. The fair housing law is worth it while, if it is well deserved. I earned mine, let the colored do likewise. Peace.
August 16, from Homewood:
Even church members who ere willing to accept them graudally are beinging ot show intense hatred, so I think the cause is slipping backward instead of forward...Please use your influent promptly, because I feel certain we are on the brink of a Civil War, then neither side would win. Viet nam is a minor worry in Chicago at the present time...
We all know what the Negroes look like, and we all know they want to live with us, but, until people are willingto accept hem, nothing can be done--it reminds me of a parent forcing his child to take a does of castor-oil--he will continue to spit it out.
I think the time has come for us white people to say what we think and say what we want. We have had enough of this, telling us who we have to work with and live with, who oulr children have to go to school with. What is this? Only a free country for the Negroes. We want some of our rights respeted too. I want to wake up in the morning and find my milk and newsapapers on my doorstep, and not find that they have been stolen. I want to make sure when I decorate a flat for my tenant that it is kept clean and not torn apart, and the screens and light figxtures havne't ben pulled out and sold for a bottle of Gin.
Also I want to say I and many of my friends think that Mayor Daley did a very unwise hting by giving into their demands--by allowing spirknlers to be put on the fire hydrants. Now they think that anytime they want anything all they have to do is march or riot....
August 18, 5801 S. Albany:
We appeal to you sir, our United States sentor, to propose and pass federal legislation to stop civil rights demonstrations. these demonstrations have turend church going, God fearing area into a battle ground of hate, violence and resentment. We believe sir, that unless you take action, blood will be shed on every street corner of our Great city.
I would like to know if this Luther King is Preisdent of the Untied States? Why should Chicago be the harassment for all the Negro ills and progblems from wherever they come?... Senator Do Soething!! to clip his wings!
I wish you could have seen them--it seems the only picures the public sees are the ones with the police carrying someone off to the squad car, not the kind of people marching. Let me tell you I have never seen such a disreputable bunch in all my life! Sloppy and dirty clothes, unshaven men, clotehes with parts of the anatomy improperly dispalyed and many, many more indencys too numerous to mention. These are the pepole who want to live with us?
...We worked and saved until we coudld afford to buy a home in a neighborhood of our choice, to be near our kind of people--as we thought we were guarnteed by the Constitution of the United States of America, just as you are livingin the neighborhood of you own choosing.
Now this bill before the Senate for open occupancy threatens to take all this away from us.
August 29, 3905 W. 84th St.:
"Last Friday evening in driving home from the officee, the Police had Pulaski Road blocked north of 87th Stret on account of a demonstration of about 500 people. This forced me to take a circuitous route to get home. The neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago are in an uproar account of these demonstrations... I would think that a maximum of six (6) protesters would gbettheirtehir point across...they are doing the Civil Rights program more harm than good.
August 27, 3837 W. 64th Place. Another favorite:
Not so long ago they werere were making a big thing out of police brutality and now they want police protection...
You know something if that Mad-Man King and his bunch tried to pull off something like this in Russia they would be shot the first thing in the morning they would never stand for waht he is doing and you know it as well as I do. Why not pack them all off to Russia?
August 31, 3831 W. 68th St.:
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers borught forth on this continent a new nation"--did they have the national Guard fight the INdians for them? No, they had to work hard for their niche in life. Today we have many groups of settlements in America--did they demosntrate for rights as the negro is doing today? No, they made their own way and are greatly respected for so doing....
Am I living in germany under Hitler's rule or in America? As I rcall the past, it comes to mind that Hitler sent troops to march in te streets of Germany. This display of power frightend the people and they ran to their homes to hide. Isn't this what we are being told to do today?
When Hitler, pardon me, I mean Martin Lutehr King, deciedes he and his troops want to harass an area, he calls a march of power and our politicans send the storm troops, correction, Police and National Guard, to help frighten the people of tha area.
Our churces are doing their bit, by telling us to be: "good, stay in your homes, ignore these ricists and maybe they wil go away." Is it possible to ignore the future?
When greedy Mr Hitler started taking over other coutnries, peole at first thtought 'give him a little more, then he will be satisfied.' Give greedy Mr King a little more freedom then he will stop. Isn't this what we are being told today?
...Wake up America! Stop being an ostrich, start realizing that during that period of apathy, after World War II and until today, we have prermitted a handfuil of peopel to write laws that are putting us in the same deplorable state that the German peole were in thirty years ago.
And here is the poor soon-to-be-former Senator Douglas's form letter in response:
Thank you for your recent letter about demosntrations and law and order. Please fogive the dely in my reply. The mail coming into my office over the past few weeks has been extremely heavy.
I want you to know that I hold no brief for lawlessness in the streets or for those people, white or black, who deface our cities and have no respect for law. I have spent my life fighting for the right of men to have an equal chance at life's opportunities--not an equal share of the nation income, but an equal chance to live a better life; and not the right to commit violence, but the right to live in an ordered society.
I am not for black power and I am not for white power; I am for American power. I am neither for black supremacy nor white supremacy. I am for the supremacy of rason and fairness.
These stands have not been popular. I have been condenmned by Negroes and I have been condemned by whites; but I wil continue to espouse the principles I have repeated in this letter.
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