Eleanor Roosevelt: "Our race and our religion should not place any special handicaps upon us. That is the concept on which these United States came into being, and the sooner we bring it to fulfillment, the sooner will the dreams of many of our people come true..."
NEW YORK, Monday—I was greeted at the breakfast table the other morning with 'The Experiment in Autobiography' by H.G. Wells. The book looks as if it would be fascinating reading. If I have the opportunity of spending a few consecutive days in the country at Christmas time, I will take it along for my literary diet.
I also received a copy of the November issue of 'Commentary,' a magazine published by the American Jewish Committee. While this is frankly a Jewish magazine which plans to discuss the interests and varied points of view of the Jewish people themselves, it also plans to relate their particular problems to their larger interests in the nation and in the world.
As in every other group, there are great varieties of opinion among the Jewish people on various questions. In this country especially, I think that the great majority of people of the Jewish faith, even those who have come from other lands, consider themselves only as Americans. They have fulfilled their duties as American citizens ever since the earliest days, with a patriotism and devotion to this country equal to that of the members of any other group. Back in Revolutionary days, our financial existence was assured by the contributions of two men, one of them a Jew.
I have always felt, therefore, that it would be far better if, like every other group, those who wished to be primarily American citizens could be so considered, with no discrimination practised against them any more than it should be practised against any other American citizen. Until we have complete equality of opportunity in every field, equal rights socially and economically, we cannot consider ourselves a real democracy. Equal rights mean that we live our personal lives as we choose. Our friends and our activities are our own choice, but we conform to the national pattern in all public contacts.
There cannot be, of course, complete equality for every human being because, even though we have equal opportunity, our native gifts and the circumstances in which we are born condition our development. But our race and our religion should not place any special handicaps upon us. That is the concept on which these United States came into being, and the sooner we bring it to fulfillment, the sooner will the dreams of many of our people come true.
The American Council on Race Relations has just published a pamphlet called 'Hemmed In', which deals with the housing problem of Negroes and other minority groups in the North and West over the period of the last twenty-five years. It is a sad record, and I think that no one who reads it can fail to recognize the fact that such conditions are a blot on our great democracy. They affect not only the minorities concerned, but the well-being of all of our citizens.