The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts on March 15, 1970 · 101
Get access to this page with a Free Trial

A Publisher Extra Newspaper

The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts · 101

Boston, Massachusetts
Issue Date:
Sunday, March 15, 1970
Start Free Trial

A-3 .How prejudiced are the suburbs? Westwood survey gives clues for lack of U.S. social harmony Boston Sunday Globe March 15, 1970 By George S. Sigel, M.D. Resident in Psychiatry, Tufts-New England Medical Center The town of Westwood has much in common with communities that dot the suburbs of every large city. There are stately old houses and rambling new ones. There are spic and span school houses and plenty of trees. And there is an undercurrent of racial prejudice that keeps the town almost lily white and prevents progress toward the difficult goal of social harmony between the races. The dangers of white prejudice were sounded with special force two years ago in the Kerner Report. That Presidential study alerted the nation to the fact that it was drifting toward a dual society with blacks and whites irrevocably separated. Moreover, the report focused on the fact that white racism was at the root of the problem. This fact was driven Rate yourself: take the test that Westwood residents took Before starting test, rate yourself. Do you regard yourself as very prejudiced, moderately prejudiced, slightly prejudiced or not prejudiced (underline-one). When you have completed the test and scored it, you will be able to compare your vision of your own level of prejudice with that uncoveerd by the responses to the questionnaire. Now proceed to the questions. Substitute the name of your community for Westwood and indicate your disagreement or agreement with each statement according to the following numerical scale: 1 Strongly disagree 2 Moderately disagree 3 Slightly disagree 4 Slightly agree 5 Moderately agree 6 Strongly agree THE TEST 1 Negro neighbors would probably lower property values in this area. 2 Negroes have long been denied many basic rights and privileges. 3 In national emergencies, it is highly important to limit responsible government jobs to native, white, Christian Americans. 4 Efforts to provide opportunities for Negroes to live where they want are going too slowly. 5 Present treatment of conscientious objectors and draft evaders is too lenient. 6 Manual labor and menial jobs seem to fit the Negro mentality and ability better than more skilled or responsible work. 7 Too much of the tax dollar is spent supporting the poor. 8 Our schools would be better with more minority groups represented. 9 City riots are a threat to our suburban life. 10 City rioters demonstrate that inferior groups, iring By Nathan Cobb Globe Staff When a business classifies a person "unemployable," it can be for any one of a number of handy reasons. It might mean a police record, lack of education, a poor work record or a mental handicap, to name a few. To the person termed "unemployable," however, it means only one thing: no job. And since most companies maintain similar hiring standards, it almost always means no job, period. But at Keystone Bay State Industries, Inc., just off the Southeast Expressway in Dorchester, there is no such thing as an "unemployable," provided work is available. With a unique and daring program started a little oyer a year ago, Keystone is hiring the people other companies won't. The program, conceived by Keystone President Robert J. Swartz, is being implemented by Chester, Garron, personnel director. Sitting in his unadorned second floor office last week, the younger brother of former Boston Patriots' halfback Larry Garron explained how it works. "We've bypassed the traditional personnel methods and gone to a person-to-person relationship," he H home to me when I first visited a steering committee meeting of the West-wood Human Rights Committee. During that session, the subtle prejudice of the participants kept cropping up. There was talk of Negroes as "them," and it was argued that only "the right kind of families" would be acceptable in town. I got the impression that the committee could meet for years without accomplishing anything, without helping to integrate a town that is home to only two black families. But you couldn't confront the individuals with their prejudice. It would have been futile. They would have denied it, become angry and emphasized that service on the committee was proof of their lack of prejudice. I decided instead to document their prejudice in the hope it would help them and the town to face positively and openly the problem of racism. Instead of turning them off, I hoped to guide them 'unemployable' works for said. "We try to take the case of each individual and determine what we can do to make this person employable. "In many cases, I don't even look at the guy's ap PERSONNEL PARLEY State personnel director ron, left, implemented the (4 "v 'ft ;.$Otf 'v hi Mm PJ n- : - , I toward recognition of their feelings in ways they could accept. The result was The Westwood Study, a survey of attitudes in this one town. But it really could be almost any suburb in America. People were asked to respond to 34 opinion questions that assessed their attitudes toward open housing, specifically, and Negroes, generally. With the aid of a computer, the 510 questionnaires that were returned were graded on the level of prejudice expressed and on the level of prejudice at which the individuals rated themselves. What emerged from the total study was a picture of a town where only about one person in five was without significant prejudice toward Negroes. At the same time, about twice that number, or 44 percent, of the respondents rated themselves as being without prejudice. In other words, twice as many people thought themselves to be without prejudice than was indicated by actual when they are given too much freedom and money, just misuse their privileges and create disturbances. 11 It is possible that this neighborhood would dete-rioate with open housing. 12 Negroes are discriminated against. 13 Welfare encourages illegitimacy. 14 Busing Negro children to Westwood is desirable. . 15 Negroes may nave a part to play in white civilization, but it is best to keep them in their own districts and schools and to prevent too much intermixing with whites. 16 It would be a mistake to have Negroes for foremen and leaders over whites. 17 This town government is doing too little to encourage integration. 18 Fair and open housing will probably drive property values down in this neighborhood. 19 Riots have brought about some long overdue action by city governments to help the Negro community. 20 It is possible that this neighborhood would deteriorate if Negro families were permitted into this area. 21 If a Negro family comes to live in this area, welfare families will soon follow. 22 Black power movements can lead only to violence. 23 More Negro families in Westwood would be desirable. 24 Special government programs should be devised to make it easier for Negro families to live in this area. 25 The Negroes would solve many of their social problems by not being so irresponsible and lazy. 26 Patriotism and loyalty are the first and most important requirements of a good citizen. 27 There will always be wars because there will always be races who ruthlessly try to grab more than their share. 28 Our neighborhood is better off without minority groups. 29 Law and order must be established as the first order of business. plication, except for name and address. We walk around, look at the jobs available, and I simply find out whether or not he's willing to do this type of work. Keystone Bay policy that was originally conceived by Chester Gar- the company's president, Robert J. unique hiring Swartz. performance in response to the questions. This indicated that half of the prejudiced population of the town has no conscious recognition of negative feelings toward Negroes. ' The fact that many white people are prejudiced in their feeling toward Negroes comes as hardly a surprise. More significant is the intensity of prejudice many people will display. For instance, 40 percent of the respondents strongly agreed with the statement, "Negroes would solve many of their social problems by not being so irresponsible and lazy." And 42 percent felt that "busing Negro children to Westwood is not desirable." Westwood is not unique. In my opinion, the results would have been essentially the same in any suburban town. I do not want to criticize, argue or provoke. My intention is only to let people know that this is what they really feel about blacks, and that they are "We look at people no other company will look at. And with time and effort, we've produced good, productive workers." Garron estimates that 175 of Keystone's 457 em- PARTICIPATION IN better off knowing it. Here is a sampling of other statements that attracted prejudiced responses from large portions of the respondents. 30 The people who raise all the talk about putting Negroes on the same level as whites and giving them the same privileges are mostly radical agitators trying to stir up conflicts. 31 There is something inherently primitive and uncivilized in the Negro, as shown in his music and aggressiveness. , 32 Welfare, although imperfect, is a necessity for many. 33 Open and fair housing can be achieved without government programs. 34 Westwood is open to Negroes who care to come to live. 1 SCORING In order for the scoring to work accurately, the number of your response on some of the questions must be inverted. In other words, if you recorded a 1 change it to a 6, change a 2 to a 5, change a 3 to a 4, change change a 4 to a 3, change a 5 to a 2 and a 6 to a 1. Make these changes on your responses to questions 2, 4, 8, 9, 12, 14, 17, 19, 23, 24 and 32. Now simply add up all the numbers and compare your results to this scale: 34-76 Not prejudiced 76-119 Slightly prejudiced 119-161 Moderately prejudiced 161-204 Very prejudiced Don't forget to look back and see how your self-rated level of high prejudice compares with this tested result. The over-all average score for respondents in West-wood was 105, which would place the community high in the slightly prejudiced category. But this figure reflects large numbers' of respondents who, individually, fell into the moderately and very perjudiced groups. ployees would be "unemployable" by traditional standards. Slightly over 38 percent of the company's labor force are members of minority groups: black, oriental, American Indian and Spanish-speaking American. A 31 -year-old black who came to Keystone at the end of 1968 as a recruiter, Garron is experienced in the various forms of prejudice to be found in job-seeking. "Traditionally," he says, "personnel people become worried about ex-convicts or certain races, and they can easily find ways to eliminate them from consideration without really saying; "we don't want you." They can use examinations, experience levels, work records all those things." Keystone is in the business of manufacturing precision metal parts and products, so most of the people Garron hires must be trained. "We try to take it very slowly," he says, "to explain each step and repeat it over and over again. Our method of training is sort of a 'big brother' type. The person is shown what to do and encouraged to ask questions. "If a person doesn't speak your language, he's as confused as you are. So you have to take the time HUMAN RIGHTS WORK IS There were 41 percent who believed that West-wood is open to Negroes who care to come and live. In ' my opinion this is a naive belief, when meas- Dorchester firm to get across what you're trying to say." There was, naturally, somewhat of a cool reception to the program from the company's supervisory personnel. "They had to become teachers as well as supervisors, and they weren't used to it," Garron explains. "It was a difficult adjustment for them. We had to talk it out." To help bring about understanding, the company held a series of sensitivity training seminars. They featured role playing, through which supervisory personnel watched typical work problems being acted out and had to come up with solutions. "It taught them," says Garron, "to be sensitive to another man's feelings whether he be black, Spanish-speaking or of his own race." It becomes evident, after talking with Garron for a while, that there are two very big words in his vocabulary: communication and involvement. While the role of the personnel director has traditionally been to hire, perhaps fire, and maybe administrate a medical insurance program somewhere in between, Chet Garron takes his job a big step beyond. He is something of a social worker in residence. It is not unusual for him NOT PROOF OF LACK OF ured against the facts that there are many well-documented incidents of discrimination against Negroes looking for homes in the town. In Westwood, whites can be quite liberal in what they say because they know blacks will not be coming to town looking for homes. This is somewhat confirmed by the fact that 46 percent believed strongly that special government programs should NOT be devised to make it easier for Negroes to live in this area. In general, 40 percent believed strongly that too much of the tax dollar is spent supporting the poor. And there is a tendency to equate "the poor" with "the Negro," as in the case of a neighbor who assumed that my wife's work on a welfare project involved clients who were all black. Almost all are white. On some questions that tested more extreme prejudiced attitudes, one person in five strongly believed his neighborhood would be better off without minority groups and one in four strongly felt it undesirable for more Negro families to move into town. Prejudice found expression in other attitudes as well. On four related questions, 40 percent of the respondents believed strongly that property values would go down and the In tomorrow's Globe: prejudiced feelings. to go to employees' homes to discuss their problems. Nor is it untypical to find him sitting with a foreman and talking about an individual case. An afternoon in his office brings numerous employees for discussions and endless telephone calls for advice. A walk through the plant brings dozens of waves. He is both visable and available. "This gives a person with a complaint someone to use as a sounding board," he says. "I try to make it very clear that if they've got something on their minds they should speak up. "These people sometimes aren't used to communicating verbally. There's a communication block. We try to get them to realize that all it takes is conversation. "It's a matter of becoming involved. And that's the major problem with the personnel field. They don't want to become involved and they don't try to communicate. They let their fears take over." Has the program worked "It hasn't been without problems," Garron says. "But one of the realities of manufacturing today is that the straight labor force is diminishing. They have to turn to a labor force that has been ignored for many years. They must PREJUDICE neighborhood would deteriorate if Negroes were permitted to live in the area. In point of fact, property values generally do whatever they were doing before integration of a suburban neighborhood takes place. If they were rising, they will continue to rise and vice versa. Actually, this sort of concern often masks unconscious prejudice, allowing the individual to think he is without prejudice and concerned "only" with the neighborhood. "Law and order" is another expression often used to mask prejudice. In this survey, 70 percent strongly believe that law and order had to be established as a first order of business. Though law and order are important values in society, fear of crime is often a code for a fear of blacks. As a Louis Harris poll recently concluded, people in the least danger of being a victim of crime often are the ones most concerned about the problem. In Westwood there is little crime, certainly too little to account for the large number of people who elevate it to highest priority. This phenomenon suggests hidden prejudice. Actually, the continued existence of almost exclusively white suburbs is a giant measure of prejudice in itself. As difficult as it is to accept, most whites do harbor significant anti-Negro feelings. Help in recognizing your ou n hire the so-called 'unem-ployables,' the blacks, the Spanish-speaking Americans." Figures indicate that Keystone's labor force is comparable in quality to others throughout the state and is steadily improving. For example, their "total separations" rate (quits and layoffs) is now 7.0 persons per month per 100 employees, only 2.1 percent above the Mass. rate for manufacturing firms for the first 11 months of 1969. Garron notes that the absentee rate has dropped from 25 to 6 percent during the 12 months the program has been in operation. "This isn't charity," says Robert Swartz, the man who must worry more about precision parts than terms such as 'communication and 'involvement.' "Every one of these people produces. "In fact," he goes on, "they've been our salvation. Unless we had tapped this labor market, we would have been out of business. "Other businessmen ask me, 'Do they come to work?' or, 'Don't they cause trouble?' When I explain the program, I find they're both surprised and envious. "Then they ask me how they can do it. And I tell them they really have to want to."

Clipped articles people have found on this page

Get access to

  • The largest online newspaper archive
  • 22,600+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s
  • Millions of additional pages added every month

Publisher Extra® Newspapers

  • Exclusive licensed content from premium publishers like the The Boston Globe
  • Archives through last month
  • Continually updated

Try it free