From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 25, 21 June 1943, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.
The recent decision of the War Labor Board ordering equalization of pay for Negroes in Texas is undoubtedly a victory for the Negroes, but it was won by their determined struggle for their elementary rights. An examination of the order, however, shows that the WLB had in mind the international boosting of the United Nations, and the covering up of the skeleton of American race prejudice.
The board describes the decision as being in line with the President’s Executive Order 8802, with the request of the union, etc., “with prophetic Americanism” (whatever that may mean) “and with the cause of the United Nations.” Then follows a real attack on Nazism for its racial doctrines: “Economic and political discrimination on account of race or creed is in line with the Nazi program.”
The order then goes on to describe America in the days of its infant weakness as “the haven of heretics and the oppressed of all races.” This, if you please, of the greatest slave-holding nation of modern times. The Negro is told that his freedom in America gives him an “equal opportunity to work and fight for our common country.” America needs the Negro and the Negro “needs the equal opportunity to work and fight.” Then comes a revealing passage; “The Negro is necessary for Winning the war, and, at the same time, as a test of our sincerity in the cause for which we are fighting.”
Follows the climax, which must be quoted in full:
“More hundreds of millions of colored peoples are involved in the outcome of this war than the combined populations of the Axis powers. Under Hitler, and his master race, their movement is backward to slavery and despair. In America, the colored people have the freedom to struggle for freedom. With the victory of the democracies, the human destiny is toward freedom, hope, equality of opportunity and the gradual fulfillment for all people of the noblest aspirations of the brothers of men and the sons of God, without regard to color or creed, religion or race, in the world neighborhood of human brotherhood.”
It is not enough to say: “Baloney!” This passage is obviously directed straight to the peoples of the Far East. We believe that this order has played, and will play, a prominent part in the nightly broadcasts directed to the peoples in the East, and will occupy an equally prominent position in the official propaganda magazines edited by the Office of War Information for distribution in Asia.
The United Nations are feeling the pressure of the Far Eastern peoples on this, one of the rotten spots in American “democracy.” When Madam Chiang Kai-shek was dined in Hollywood, she insisted that a Negro sit at her table. Madam wanted to signify that as far as China was concerned, the Negro question did not exist.
In India, American persecution of Negroes is a lively political topic. The Japanese see to that. Whenever a lynching takes place, the Japanese merely reprint reports of it from the American press or radio, and broadcast it throughout the Far East. Big liars, as all imperialists must be, the Japanese propaganda department has no cause to be on this question. It merely repeats the facts.
Today Germany and Japan are not only waging verbal propagand’a against British and American hypocrisy on the race question. It is reliably reported that the Germans and the Japanese have torpedoed ships, shot the white men on board, and not only allowed the Indians and Javanese sailors to go free, but have given them brandy and biscuits to help them on their way. They thus endeavor to demonstrate that they are the true friends of the colored peoples.
In South Africa, among the African natives, Hitler’s agents are actively telling the people that the British are the real enemies of the African people. This is true enough, but equally true is the, fact that the Germans are not persecuting the Negroes simply because they haven’t any to persecute. The Hitler regime sterilized all the Negroes it could find in Germany.
Thus Imperialism plays football with the desire of the Negro peoples for freedom and equality. When the pressure in Washington and all over the United States was getting really hot on the Negro question, Roosevelt went out of his way to make a spectacular visit to President Barclay of Liberia, and invited Barclay to pay an equally spectacular visit here. The Negro press, which, along with good agitation on the Negro question, can propagate the silliest nonsense at times, made much of the fact that, in accordance with official custom, Mrs. Roosevelt accompanied the distinguished guests to the doors of their bedrooms. Presumably, the hundreds of thousands of starving Negroes in Liberia slept better that night. One should not be fooled by all this. The order of the WLB was not issued willingly, nor without pressure, nor without fear of what a dangerous situation exists now. Rather we should know, when the Negroes have won a privilege, it was by hard struggle. The workers in the unions have demanded equal pay for all alike and it is they who have forced the issue. This order is not only a victory for the Negro worker, but for all labor.
Last updated on 24 May 2015