Commonplace Book #191

[Howard] Thurman concluded his report with a searching analysis of the differences between the caste system of India and the racial system of the United States, and in particular the place of “in-between’ people, mulattoes in America and Anglo-Indians and Eurasians on the South Asian continent. But the basic difference, the one that gave Thurman hope for social movements in America, was that “the political ideal of America is in favor of practices that are democratic in genius and before which undemocratic practices such as discrimination can be condemned as antithetical and immoral.” Such a democratic dogma was lacking in India. And because both whites and blacks claimed allegiance to Christian brotherhood, the actual existing social practices of America could be exposed to the “searching judgment of the most radical social teachings in existence.” The United States certainly was not a Christian country in its practices, “but the ideal which is accepted provides the more underprivileged members of the society with a powerful weapon of defense.,” one not available to the underprivileged in India. Indeed, Christianity’s great hope in India was a message of redemption for the untouchables, but it could never realize that potential as long as it remained “impotent in the presence of the color bar and in the presence of all kinds of racial and class distinctions in the West.’

Paul Harvey, Howard Thurman & The Disinherited: A Religious Biography, 82.