By ROSEMARY SHEED
THE flood of publicity given to our anti-nuclear sitters and marchers might well remind us of the great achievements of the "sitters" and "riders" in the American South towards combating racial injustice there.
I have just been reading an article written a few weeks back in the "New York Times Magazine " by Martin Luther King, Jr., that impressive coloured religious leader, analysing the position of the new generation of coloured students there.
He quotes Victor Hugo's phrase, "There is no greater power on earth than an idea whose time has come ", and adds, "The time for freedom for the Negro has come".
The consciousness of this, and
the fact that they are " carrying forward a revolutionary destiny of a whole people consciously and dbliberately ", he says, is what makes these young people as willing to "till the jails as if they were honours classes", and gives them the courage to " absorb brutality " without resorting to violence.
It is wonderful to see what has been achieved in this way (more than 150 southern cities have desegregated their lunch counters as a result of the student "sitters", for instance); and it is an interesting point that all violence and sidestepping of the law has been on the side of the segregationists.
SENT TO PRISON
WHAT is perhaps particularly encouraging in all this is the large part played by religious groups.
Fifteen episcopal ministers. three of them coloured. tried to lunch together in a restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi; having been asked to leave and refused, they were all arrested, tried and sent to prison.
They made clear their conviction that any form of segregation was entirely out of place in the Episcopal Church.
There is equally no place for it in the American Constitution.
SOUL OF A NATION
AMOST valuable part of Dr. King's article points out: "These students . . . are seeking to save the soul of America. They are taking our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the Founding Fathers
in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence".
They are prepared, says Dr. King, " to sit-m, kneel-in, wade-in and stand-in" until every " facility throughout the nation that is supposedly open to the public is in fact open to Negroes, Mexicans, Indians, Jews or what-have-you".
Dr. King admits, of course, that not everyone in this movement has such high ideals, that not everything in the garden is lovely. But it seems a good deal lovelier than most of the other gardens open for our inspection.
TWIST T""Observer", commenting editorially on the number of resolutions about violent crime tabled for the Conservative Conference, adds: " One resolution states unashamedly what penal reformers have often suspected: it calls for capital and corporal punishment ' whether or not statistically indicated as a deterrent '. This is simply a call for a revival of the doctrine of vengeance ".
This comment is, I think, a little unfair; the authors of this resolution are in fact implying that statistics are not necessarily a proof of anything-not demanding punishment even though it does not deter. They are convinced that it does deter, despite statistics, and indeed deterrence is a very hard thing to prove or disprove.
WEIGHT OF EVIDENCE
SURELY we should demand a great weight of evidence before ourselves resorting to savagery, before demanding what the " Observer" calls " a return to the penology of the eighteenth century ".
The weight of the evidence goes to indicate that not merely do these punishments not deter, but that corporal punishment is more Likely to lead to subsequent offences than other punishment (capital punishment of course does not).
Is it not better to remind ourselves that vengeance is for the Lord alone, and concentrate simply on finding some method of punishing criminals that will make them less criminal in the future rather than more so?