This excerpt from a statement to his congregation by Dr. Witty, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida on the topic of segregation appeared in the December 1957 issue of The Citizen’s Council – a pro-segregation newsletter based in Jackson, Mississippi.
This letter highlights the way anti-communist rhetoric was threaded through the thoughts and positions held by many people opposed to integration of schools and other institutions.
First, I believe God made the races as distinct human groups. Though “red, yellow, black and white are precious in his sight”, the fact also remains that God made man “red, yellow, black, and white.” When man works to destroy these God-given distinctions he opposes part of God’s plan. I am opposed to any attempted destruction of the racial differences which God established and nature has long preserved.
Bayonets build no brotherhood and rifle-butts can not knock love into the heart. To follow the pattern of normal affinity is not racial discrimination but rather normal determination.
Voluntary association of these races, while preserving their distinctions, is the normal pattern of a related world, but forced associations destroy the quality of existence, deprive the compelled of their liberties, and make their happiness impossible.
The answer to the race problem is not physical closeness but spiritual understanding and mutual respect.
As a Christian I am dedicated to good-will among men. For years, a portion of my time has been invested in improving race relations. The first negro local religious broadcast came by my efforts. With other ministers I participated in an institute for negro pastors. I preached in the local negro college and in negro churches and negro settlement works. A negro minister preached from my pulpit on one occasion and negro choirs sang before our church.
Good will and Christian concern were increasing. But these dearly bought advances have been swept aside by pressure groups and politicians. Right and understanding relationships between black and white grow only voluntarily and are destroyed into animosities by force.
These selfish, if not communist inspired pressures, forget that the answer to the race problem is not physical nearness but mutual respect and spiritual understanding.
May God give us strength to rebuild with patience what selfish politicians, with callous disregard for born races, have destroyed to satisfy their greed for power.
This soft sell for maintaining segregation was not unusual for its time. When we look at the attitudes and practices of our ancestors, I think it is important to understand that they were living inside a sort of insular culture where their own political and spiritual leaders supported ideas that seem quite radical today.