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Say what you will about motivation and timing, the invitation from Forest Oaks Country Club for black members to join cannot be anything but welcome. If the effect is to safeguard the future of the Greater Greensboro Open golf tournament, fine. It was the right thing to do in any case.Old-timers in the community may recall that at an earlier time the GGO brought credit to Greensboro by resolutely demolishing a racial barrier. In 1961, GGO officials and Sedgefield Country Club invited Charlotte golfer Charlie Sifford to play in the tournament. He did and thus became the first black golfer to play a PGA Tour event in the South.

The opportunity to pay a $7,500 initiation fee and gain the use of Forest Oaks is not one that many people, black or white, are in a position to take advantage of. The club's decision to seek out black members is not going to change the course of history or go down as a major milestone on the long road to racial harmony. But it's not unimportant.

Racial progress, from Brown v. Board of Education through the 1960 sit-ins and scores of other turning points, large and small, is a story of incremental change. America has come a long way, but it has a ways to go.

It would be heartening to see Greensboro's other clubs take a cue from Forest Oaks and move quietly beyond the pretense of nondiscriminatory policy to a reality of open doors. It's not a question of constitutional or legal rights, but simply of what is right. Secure and civilized people don't cling to exclusive racial enclaves.

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