The Negro as an American


Robert C. Weaver's The Negro as an American speech, delivered at Chicago, Illinois — June 13, 1963.

Weaver_lbj When the average well-informed and well-intentioned white American discusses the issue of race with his Negro counterpart there are many areas of agreement. There are also certain significant areas of disagreement. Negro Americans usually feel that whites exaggerate progress; while whites frequently feel that Negroes minimize gains. Then there are differences relative to the responsibility of Negro leadership. It is in these areas of dispute that some of the most subtle and revealing aspects of white-white relationships reside. And it is to the subtle and less obvious aspects of this problem that I wish to direct my remarks.

Most middle-class white Americans frequently ask, “Why do Negroes push so? They have made phenomenal progress in 100 years of freedom, so why don't their leaders do something about the crime rate and illegitimacy?” To them I would reply that when Negroes press for full equality now they are behaving as all other Americans would under similar circumstances. Every American has the right to be treated as a human being and striving for human dignity is a national characteristic. Also, there is nothing inconsistent in such action and realistic self-appraisal. Indeed, as I shall develop, self-help programs among non-whites, if they are to be effective, must go hand-in-glove with the opening of new opportunities. Negroes who are constantly confronted or threatened by discrimination and inequality articulate a sense of outrage. Many react with hostility, sometimes translating their feelings into overt anti-social actions. In parts of the Negro community a separate culture with deviant values develops. To the members of this subculture I would observe that ours is a middle-class society and those who fail to evidence most of its values and behavior are headed toward difficulties. But I am reminded that the rewards for those who do are often minimal, providing insufficient inducement for large numbers to emulate them.

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