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SNCC 1960-1966: Six years of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

White LiberalismEarly in SNCC's history a rift began to form between the organization and its white liberal support. When SNCC initially began its program of sit-ins and other forms of nonviolent protest, they hoped it would create such a compelling image of violent oppression that northern white liberals would become incensed by the situation and take immediate and decisive action.

Instead, SNCC's actions were met with $5 and $10 checks, and an occasional lawsuit on their behalf. This gave rise to resentment from SNCC members who felt while they were in the field risking their lives, their white support was patting itself on the back for its philanthropy and not risking anything.

White people who were working on the front lines were also out of favor with black SNCC workers. The white members did not pay the same price for their actions as the black members: during protests they were less likely to be beaten, and even in death they received preferential treatment. If a white member was killed alongside a black member the white member would be mourned throughout the country while the black member was often forgotten or ignored.

Furthermore, the presence of white support complicated the organization's message. In order to rouse a larger number of black people to action, SNCC needed to create a simple and clearly defined enemy--in this case racist white America. The presence of whites who appeared supportive complicated the issue and made SNCC's movement harder to sell to the black public.