15 SEPTEMBER 1961, Page 4

Race or Colour

O. a later page Constance Lever describes her experiences in Monroe, North Carolina, where she found herself the centre of world-wide publicity as a result of being involved in the race riots there last month. It is an ugly story, though illumined by glimpses of the dignity and courage of the Negroes, young and old, through violence and humiliation. And the moral to be drawn is not simply that these things can happen in the Deep South; it is that they can happen anywhere, if the conditions that breed race hatred are allowed to develop—as they are de- veloping in many British towns. Were it not for full employment, which has meant that most West Indians, Pakistanis and others have been able to find jobs without dispossessing British workers, the situation would be far worse than it is.

The problem of how to prevent segregation, though, presents obvious difficulties. Should the principle of no discrimination on grounds of race, colour or religion be upheld by the law? Or should it be left to public opinion to en- force? Clearly there can and should be laws against discrimination where public funds are involved—for example, if any army regiment were found to be excluding Jews from its officers' mess that should be dealt with. But a good case can be made for not passing laws which cannot be enforced. There should be no question of trying to legislate against discrimination by pri- vate clubs, because it would not work—except with the help of agents provocateurs, and prob- ably microphones; discrimination can easily be imposed off the written record.

What can be done, and the press should do it, is to publicise all cases of discrimination, wherever they occur. Such publicity is whole- some. The club which decides to continue to ex- clude Negroes or Jews will be entitled to do so; but it will be a warning to those of its members who like to profess antipathy to racial dis- crimination of this kind to protest and, if neces- sary, to resign rather than countenance in Britain the growth of practices and attitudes which we are so quick to condemn in Georgia or Johannesburg.