Notes From The Underground: Divided We Fall (Vol. 39, Issue 3)
About a week ago, a young black was beaten to death by a gang of white teenagers in the South Village. According to an eyewitness, adult bystanders encouraged the youths. Thirty-one black children enter a junior high school in Canarsie. Though the basic issues there pertain to community control and conflict between different economic groups, blacks and whites face each other in a seeming racial confrontation. These are but two local examples of a rising tide in America. People have become more racist and more hateful. This has not occurred by chance. Rather, the President’s policy has been to encourage these emotions, to set off race against race, class against class.
These tactics have apparently paid off handsomely. Mr. Nixon has received the mandate he has desired and so cunningly and cynically, orchestrated. Both he and the citizens of the United States, however, must now face the consequences of his actions over the last four years,
Americans of different races and religions have always segregated themselves; every city has had, for example, its rich and poor areas, its Jewish, Italian and Black neighborhoods. Indeed, the much-heralded “melting pot” has actually existed only on the pages of history books. Despite this, for moro than a decade before the present administration came into office, this country was moving toward the ideal of equality and prosperity for all.
Most people supported, or at least paid lip service to, this goal. Though some resistance smoldered beneath the surface, this did not appear sufficient to alter the nation’s course. Mr. Nixon, however, through his appointments to the Supreme Court, his “Southern Strategy,” and the general tone of his administration sought to and has reversed this trend.
The President chose to exacerbate rather than diminish antagonisms between groups. Instead of calming fears and condemning divisiveness, he has decided to exaggerate the differences that once gave this pluralist society its strength. He has thereby destroyed this country’s frail and precious fabric of unity. In the process, he may have irrevocably weakened this nation.
This strategy has affected many people. Almost all have become a little more selfish and bigoted, a little less reasonable and accommodating. In a country which consists of people from diverse backgrounds, such a climate will only intensify existing differences. If Richard Nixon ever goes to the conference table “as head of the second strongest nation in the world” it will not be due to lack of arms. It will be because the discords he himself has fostered will have sapped the nation’s strength.