WASHINGTON (Oct. 29)
The past five years have witnessed a “gradual crumbling” of the walls of “exclusionary social practice in the residence, the fraternity and even the town and city social club, ” Dr. John Slawson, executive vice president of the American Jewish Committee, said in a report here today. He stressed, however, that exclusions in the “executive suite “–the top management echelons–of the American corporations, “still persist on a wide scale. “
Dr. Slawson cited as an indication of the “crumbling” of social discrimination a recent study by the American Jewish Committee of a middle-sized northeastern city where it was found that nine out of eleven influential persons could be “sword carriers in a discreet battle against discrimination. ” The people who gave this response to “depth interviews” in the survey included, among others, the chairman of the board of a leading bank, the chairman of the board of trustees of a university, a ranking industrialist, and a leading attorney.
The report on current trends in social discrimination, which centers about the problem of equality of social opportunity, was made public here today in connection with the American Jewish Committee’s national executive board meeting at the Shoreham Hotel. Dr. Slawson stressed that according to recent Committee studies, current social exclusions “are not based primarily on ingrained hostilities, but more importantly on the status-striving tendencies of the exclusionary groups. ” Therefore, the restriction of social opportunity, which is closely related to economic opportunity, “is apt to be more prevalent among higher income groups. “
However, even here, Dr. Slawson underscored, the barriers persist more out of “cultural lag and habit than out of antagonism. ” In fact, Dr. Slawson reported that “vituperative, hostile language” regarding members of “the other groups” is rare today in the private precincts of these social circles as contrasted with a decade ago.”
JEWS STILL EXCLUDED FROM ‘ELITE’ CLUBS; WOMEN MORE BIASED THAN MEN
Dr. Slawson cited a major U. S. bank as an important example of a “parallel break through” in the economic field. He declared: “After a frank discussion with top officials of this institution regarding its exclusionary policy in managerial posts, it was found that this practice was a result of habit and inertia rather than a planned objective. Following the joint discussion, the recruiting system of trainees broadened and for the first time a member of a minority group, who was an employee in that bank for many years, was appointed to a top policy-making post,”
Similarly, Dr. Slawson reported “successes have been noted in some exclusionary social clubs in various parts of the country. He emphasized, however, that most of the topmost so-called “elite” social clubs of the country “still maintained admission policies in which members of some religious, ethnic and racial groups are automatically excluded without reference to their individual qualifications. “
Committee studies show that the top managerial echelons in this country–”the executive suite”–is becoming a primary institution of fashion and pace-setting, particularly in terms of social discrimination, in certain instances, even superseding the role of the private club. With regard to individuals, committee studies in this area have shown that “older persons appear to be more exclusionary than younger people. ” Women are “more severe about exclusion than men and seem to be more reluctant to break down the barriers created against minority groups,” Dr. Slawson declared.
Related to the general practice of social discrimination is the situation in national fraternities which represent “an extremely important barometer” since they are pacesetters of social custom to the general community. During the past five years, barriers in fraternities have been dissolving at an accelerated rate. Dr. Slawson reported that only two national fraternities out of 61 still have restrictions against Jewish students as compared with 25 about 15 years ago.
With regard to housing, Dr. Slawson reported that Committee studies “reveal a gradual decrease during the past decade in the number of exclusionary residential areas in most communities, in spite of the fact that there remain certain significant pockets of residential discrimination, such as Bronxville, N. Y., and the District of Columbia.”