The "attached article" mentioned by Miss Wortham in this message to friends is a reprint of her "Individualism versus Racism" from the January, 1966, FREEMAN.
Prior to and after having written the attached article, I have been swamped with questions from racists, liberals, and conservatives —Negroes, Whites, and Jews — Africans, Englishmen, and Israelis. Most of the questions boil down to this: "But what was so different about your environment that leads you to think as you do?"
You see, I am a Negro. I was born and raised in the segregated town of Jackson, Tennessee. I attended college at that famous pillar of "Negro civil rights"—Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. I grew up in a segregated town; I worked as maid for white women; I was taught in college that I had to "catch up and beat them"; I have been discriminated against once in Washington, D. C. But… a Negro demonstrator once called me a traitor; some college classmates hinted that I was an "Uncle Tom"; a work supervisor called me a maverick; a white "liberal" I worked with accused me of committing treason against my race. In other words, I spent my growing years in the "right" environment and heard all the "right" dogma but I turned out to be the wrong product. Everyone wants to know why. Why? Because I am an individualist. It is as an individualist that I address myself to you.
There are the Southern white racists, the Northern white "liberals," the militant Negro racists, and the moderate Negro racists. At one time or another depending on the circumstances, these groups are thought of by most in our country as being on opposite sides of the issue. This is a fallacy. There is another group of people in this country who stand in opposition to those who are opposed only in their means but who all have the same end in mind. What many fail to recognize is that the proponents of Negro civil rights, black power, and white or black supremacy are all on the sameside of the issue. On the other side are people like me — the individualists — who have no need for group identification. These people, of all races and with varied backgrounds, do not sacrifice themselves to others and do not ask that others sacrifice their lives to them.
Individual Rights or Collective Wishes
Those of us who have not had to think in terms of race before are now being intimidated by a race of people who are demanding much more than a chance to live. With the help of their white cohorts, they have succeeded in jeopardizing the lives of us all by demanding that we sacrifice our individual rights to their collective wishes. Pushing Congress to implement the theory of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" is leading us all into collectivized slavery.
Because I am a Negro, I would like to make public my thorough disgust for the stand so many have taken as speakers for Negroes. They may speak for Negro racists. But they do not speak for those individuals for whom being a Negro means no more and is as inconsequential as a thimble of water dropped into the ocean. Being a Jew, a white Christian, a Negro, or a Puerto Rican is by no means a satisfactory or realistic measure of man as far as individualists are concerned. And living as individuals would be far easier if white and black racists would take their groupism away from this world, to another universe where man does not exist. For what they preach is anti-life, anti-man.
This summer, a well-known news commentator made the following observation: "… a formless, generalized hatred of white people is not easy to answer. It may be impossible. If anyone knows the answer I have not heard it."
There Is a Solution
There is an answer. That answer is to give no sanction to and no excuses for hatred. This summer’s rioting, looting, and sniping was an expression of hatred for life —which means, productivity—which means, responsibility — which means, choosing to think for oneself and acting on one’s own volition. This summer’s madness was just one more revelation of the fact that hatred for a responsible, productive, and rational life has been transformed into hatred for a group of people. Not all white men are responsible, productive, and rational persons; but many of them are, and many Negroes are, too. Yet, when some Negroes say "I hate Whitey," they are not speaking of particular men; they are speaking from emotions that reject the basic principles of human life. When they express their hate, they not only do harm to themselves but they make it difficult for those of us who love life to live in peace.
Why the hate? Why the escalation of that expression? It is simply that it is easier to have hatred that is sanctioned by the hated than to live in peace with one’s neighbors. When one hates, one must negate something. In this case, many Negroes have negated their own self-interest as well as the individual rights of others. Hatred is a negative emotion and it begets only the negative. But if told he is justified in his hatred, a man possessed by that ugly emotion will not question his motives; instead, he will go full-force toward destroying what he hates — those who pleaded their "guilt," thereby giving him the "gun" he turns on them.
With Justice for All
How do you deal with the brand of hatred we’ve experienced in the past months? You give it no sanction, no money, no food — nothing. You do it justice; you do not give it mercy. Mercy in the form of 0E0 projects, free food, clothing, housing, medicare, and Presidential Commissions is not the answer. A race of people is strangling this nation and they are doing so at the expense of the rights of others. When a man chooses to use force to obtain values, he is no longer to be dealt with as a man; he is to be dealt with as the brute he is. (By force, I mean anything from government welfare agencies that cannot operate except by forced taxation, to the use of bricks, clubs, and guns). You don’t plead with a sniper —you don’t give goods to a man who has just finished looting another man’s property — you don’t claim as "victims" those who stood by when trouble was brewing and did nothing, said nothing — you don’t forgive the inexcusable—you don’t give patient audience to your destroyer — you don’t give your destroyer reason to count on your pity or your guilt — you don’t deal with people who ask your help in the tone of a threat.
You don’t pity; you grant justice. Pity offers an escape from reality; it is a blank check on and license to evil. We have ample proof that such pity and mercy are destructive. Justice is recognition of the fact that one must never seek or grant the unearned and undeserved, neither in matter nor in spirit. And the only justice that can be granted to those who demand the fruits of another man’s effort is indifference. They must know, too, that once they initiate force on another man they relinquish their hold to all rights and will be dealt with accordingly. The real victims of our state of affairs, however, are the individualists. As one among this group, I ask to be left alone and to be relieved of being forced by my government to pay for the evils of others. I have good reason to believe that I am not alone.
I thank you for reading what I have to say. It is my hope that you will join me in doing all you can to protect the rights of the individual from encroachment by groups and by government.