West Roxbury, Mass.
March 18, 1976
Justice W. Arthur Garrity
U.S. Federal District Court
1525 P.O. Building
Dear Judge Garrity:
As you are aware, teachers in the Boston Public Schools are required to take a "racial census" of their pupils every morning, at your instruction. I am a Boston teacher and I have done this for many months.But this practice is in conflict with both my reason and my conscience. My position carries an unavoidable influence over the young minds of my students; and for them to witness my performing an action which they are well aware is against my known moral beliefs cannot have a good effect. I have never distinguished between them on "racial" grounds except through this census. Therefore, I respectfully request that you relieve me of this obligation.
My reasons for this request are basically three.
First, to the best of my knowledge these "racial" terms are essentially spurious categories. Their sole scientific basis consists of trivial physical features unrelated to individual mental capacity or psychological tendencies. To identify human beings by "race" is to implicity qualify or diminish both their individuality and their common humanity.
Second, the differentiation between human beings on the basis of genetic race contradicts those values which I have been taught at home, in church, in school. These are the same principles which animate my performance as a citizen and teacher. Briefly, I believe that every human being is primarily a spiritual being whose physical part, whatever its form or appearance, is of little significance, or rather of no moral significance at all.
Rationally, I can find no incompatibility between my personal beliefs and the principles on which our laws are based. I find no reference to "race" or use of the "racial" categories used in the present school census in either the U.S. Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, which in contrast states: ". . . that all men, are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights . . ." Logically it would appear that to use or give credence to "racial" categories is in conflict with the principles by which the individual is defined solely in terms of his legal equality and unalienable rights.
Third, the practice of applying "racial" distinctions as a means of identifying individuals in the eyes of government has been vitiated by its uses in the last hundred years. Some examples, i.e. Nazi Germany, the U.S. South, South Africa, are notorious; but a cursory study of history will show this practice occurring over and over again. And I can think of no instance in which it has failed to be coupled with injustice and hatred. History would seem to teach the impossibility of a fair, just racism - even a neutral racism.
I am not trying to impress you with my superior wisdom, only I have given a great deal of thought to this over the last year and a half. would very much like you to understand that I feel extremely guilty at behaving in a way which may propagate the myth of race in the minds of children, my students. I feel I am humiliating and degrading them by labeling them in racial terms, and I ask you to please excuse me from this obligation.