April 7, 1976
Dear Dr. Dentler:
Thanks for your answer, on behalf of Judge Garrity, to my letter of March 18, regarding my request to be relieved of the requirement to take a "daily racial census" of my students.
I am sorry to have taken so long to reply. However, I have spent a great deal of time in discussing your answer with my superiors; and in trying to compose an adequate reply. I am also sorry if I am mistaken in imputing to Judge Garrity the "racial census" requirement. However, this was how it was initially represented to me.
I believe that my superiors are finally prepared to accept the fact that I am indeed a "conscientious objector" to what I must call, by definition, the propagation of racism. But I have had no success in awakening an interest in finding "alternative ways" of obtaining the required attendance statistics. The reaction to your letter was, generally, that you yourself seemed ambivalent: stating on the one hand that Judge Garrity had made no specific requirement for a daily racial census but on the other hand that he had laid down a requirement which (ultimately) could not be satisfied without it.
Thus, unfortunately, the real harm being done by the "racial census" remains. Please permit me to give a concrete example of this . . .
There are many children at my school of Portuguese background, the majority from the Cape Verde Islands or other areas of Africa. Were one to differentiate among them on the basis of simple physical type, one could split them into a variety of "races" - African, Latin, Asian. However, one could find all these "races" among single families, brothers, sisters, cousins.
Although Cape Verdeans are a large and visible majority in parts of this state, they are not in Boston.
These children make no distinctions between themselves or others on the basis of racial type and their older brothers and sisters are often married to people of other ethnic groups (or "races" in the categories of the laws). In school, however, the myth of race is forced upon them. The school (just as the law and the media) does not recognize their identity and explicitly contradicts their culture's positive rejection of racial discrimination.Sometimes an individual child is humiliated: exposed to the scrutiny of his peers when the "racial census" or "biracial-council" elections expose his lack of something everyone else has, a "race." In any case, the pressure upon the minority child's cultural identity is tremendous and all-pervasive. The same is true for other children with different cultural perceptions regarding race - Dominicans, Hondurans, Trinidadians, or indeed, for children who identify themselves on any basis other than race.
Meanwhile, our American conception of "race," developed to justify the vicious institution of slavery, is nothing to be proud of. But, however much covert evil it has done, through its influence over political leaders in Boston, at least such men never dared to write this doctrine into law. And to do so, I think, was a grave mistake on Judge Garrity's part. For the ends never justify the means. You cannot practice a lie, and hope through it to bring truth to light.
One does not need to be any deep philosopher to know that the concept of differential legal status based on physical "race" is totally in conflict with the concept of universal individual rights found in the U.S. Constitution or the ideas of Jefferson and Locke.
You have referred to the existence of the concept of race as used by the U.S. Supreme Court. But I must ask you to remember that this concept, as used in federal law today, owes its origin to Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) when the U.S. Supreme Court defined, in defiance of the U.S. Constitution, the constitutionality of segregation by race. This decision is shot through with the pseudo-scientific racism and the social Darwinism of the late 19th Century: ". . . Legislation is powerless to eradicate racial instincts or to abolish distinctions based upon physical differences . . ."
The Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka justly struck down the "separate but equal" system of public education built upon Plessy v. Ferguson, while allowing the principle which justified it to stand. Yet, the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed it in 1896, and skirted it in 1954, does not make legal racism anything but false, unjust, and unconstitutional - if that word has anything to do with the U.S. Constitution that you or I can read.
In his dissent in 1896, Justice Harlan wrote: "There is no caste here. Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens . . . the law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved." American courts have fostered, or allowed, or attempted to manipulate racism for 80 years. Yet, racism was founded on injustice, has produced nothing but injustice throughout history, and even now is leading the Federal Court in Boston into many questionable practices - such as influencing children to accept race, rather then their common humanity, as self-evident I can only hope that Judge Garrity will return to Justice Harlan's words, and exorcise the theory of race from the law.