Same thing, same time, same place

June 07, 1996|By Carl T. Rowan

WASHINGTON -- On Ted Koppel's ''Nightline,'' in The New Yorker and a dozen other magazines, on the front pages of our major newspapers the raging issue in America is race.

One of the major emerging tragedies is that few people now clamor for racial integration. The surrendering assumption is that whites don't want it and blacks despair of ever achieving it, so, why bother?

The greater pity is that out of pride, ignorance or rage a lot of black people now preach against integration, uttering loud and confusing arguments for black separatism. Some castigate the NAACP and its great leaders like the late Thurgood Marshall, accusing them of arguing that black children cannot learn unless they sit beside white children. What Marshall, Roy Wilkins, Kenneth Clark and others said was that it ''stigmatized'' black children when their government declared them unfit to sit with white children. That is an unrefuted fact.

Marshall said that justice exists only when ''everybody can get the same thing at the same time at the same place.'' Those disillusioned souls who preach separatism had better heed the warning, because we learn each day that those segregated by race or class get shortchanged in America.

Slowest services

Sunday, the Washington Post carried a revealing article about how the people in the poorest parts of this black-run city get the worst and the slowest in public services and protections.

A study showed that if you live in the police department's 7th District -- 91 percent black and the city's poorest -- and you report a burglary or a missing child, you may wait five to eight hours for police to respond. But if you live in the 2nd District -- 88 percent white and the city's richest -- and you report a burglary or a missing person, you will get a police response within a half-hour.

Police officials point out that there are more time-consuming violent, life-threatening crimes in minority-poverty districts, thus the greater backup of 911 calls in poorer areas. Nonetheless, the wealthy districts with the fewest crimes usually are allocated more police services than the poorest, most crime-infested ones get.

It's not just police cars that vanish or get slower where minority and poor people are herded together. The fire engines, garbage trucks and snowplows also get to the richer white neighborhoods first.

Most politicians of all parties respond to those who they know will vote, or have the most money and the greatest clout. Republicans usually write off the cities because they figure city blacks will vote Democrat, if they vote at all.

It's time for black Americans to see things as they are and to again make a powerful mass commitment to desegregation in education, housing, schooling and in the workplace.

All my life I've said nobody was going to force me to eat crusts and crumbs when my taste was for a whole cake. That's why I've insisted on going wherever it is that all Americans can get ''the same thing at the same time at the same place.''

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 6/07/96

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