J.R. Johnson

One-Tenth of the Nation

(4 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 44, 4 November 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Today the capitalist class and all its hangers-on are on the defensive. On the Negro question, for instance, they profess a liberal attitude. Papers like the New York Times and the Herald Tribune regularly utter solemn sentiments against lynching and in favor of Negro equality, etc. But this column maintains that these people are in reality enemies of Negro emancipation. They speak in favor of equal rights and opportunities for Negroes because they cannot very well do otherwise, but they are enemies. They defend and encourage the capitalist oppression of the Negro at every turn. Encourage, you ask? Yes, they encourage it. This is how it is done:

The other evening a radio commentator on the Nuremberg trials began his piece by saying that it was not altogether easy for an American to give his opinion about the Nuremberg trial as long as we had at home a Lawrenceberg, Tenn., trial. This gentleman, whoever he was, tried to bring to public notice the latest injustice of the many to which the Negro people are daily subjected.

Any genuine friend of the Negro people could see the point and welcome a useful piece of propaganda. For the American people must constantly be reminded, every day, in every way, by as many groups, individuals and organizations as possible, of the crimes that are perpetrated against one-tenth of the nation.

The Times Writer

Not so our writer of Topics of the Times. He jumps to attack the radio commentator. He accuses him of not knowing arithmetic. He regrets that the circumstances of the Tennessee trials were shameful. He is sorry about the lynching. But, he says, Goering and the other Nazis killed five million non-combatants, while, after all, only four Negroes were lynched in Georgia and all but two of those accused in Tennessee were acquitted.

Who but an enemy of the Negro people could write that? He writes as if all the Negro people have ever suffered is the lynching of four people in Georgia and an unjust trial in Tennessee. It is now 83 years since the Proclamation of Emancipation. Who can count the innumerable violations of elementary justice to which generation after generation of Negroes in the United States have been subjected?

These are some illustrations, only a few, of what happens every day to millions of Negroes. Not only those feel it who actually have the experience. When a Negro is lynched, the whole Negro population feels the injustice, the shame, the bitterness of frustration and impotence. This has been going on for nearly a hundred years now. It is impossible to calculate the blows and wounds, physical and psychological, which have been inflicted on the Negro people day after day, in fact, hour after hour, through the years. Even as I write the Negro people are being stabbed at every turn by a civilization which treats them as some form of untouchable.

Hiding the Truth

That is the fact. Luckily human nature is resilient or the Negroes in America would have perished long ago. But they have cultivated thick skins, they have learned to suppress themselves, particularly in the South. They have seized opportunities. They have fought back where they could. And over and over again they have allied themselves with progressive causes. Today they eagerly follow the labor movement. Perhaps here at last is a force which will seriously help them. They are overwhelming supporters of the CIO. But the bitterness remains, particularly the bitterness at the Jim Crow army organized by F.D. Roosevelt.

Now our Times writer, if he had the faintest sympathy with the aspirations of the Negro people, would understand some of this. He would welcome the commentator’s statement. He would see that the commentator meant to say: “Do not let us pat ourselves on the back about justice to evil-doers. We have a terrible amount of evil in our own back yard which we should never forget.”

Instead of this our Topics of the Times man runs to attack the commentator. He is anxious to compare the six millions killed by the Nazis with the four killed in Georgia. He is anxious to show that the situation of Negroes is not so bad. He doesn't want this question brought up and constantly displayed. No. He wants it forgotten, white-washed, smoothed over. He doesn’t want people's consciences aroused. He wants them lulled. When we consider the violence of the forces arrayed against the Negro, anyone who goes out of his way to attack the Negro’s friends is encouraging the Negro’s enemies. And these capitalist journalists, with their superficial bow to liberty but their readiness to defend the enemies of liberty are in reality some of the most vicious enemies of the Negro’s cause.

And if we are talking about numbers, what about the six million Indians dead in the famine caused by British imperialism?

And further. Does our Times scribbler know that Hitler copied his laws for persecuting Jews from the Southern laws for the persecution of Negroes?

And finally we ask our Times correspondent one question, or rather two. They are as follows:

  1. Has any organization, social, political or otherwise, ever done as much for the Negro, both from the point of view of precept and example, as the CIO?
  2. When, if ever, has the Times correspondent written one single article to show this and to point out its significance?

I do not claim to have read all or even many of the articles of this writer. But this much I know. The attitude he so consistently displays in defense of reactionary concepts about the Negro people always, always and always goes side by side with a similar viciousness against organized labor and its attempts to solve great social problems.

Last updated on 8 July 2019