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International Socialist Review, Winter 1964


Robert Vernon

White Radicals and Black Nationalism


From International Socialist Review, Vol.25 No.1, Winter 1964, pp.5-10.
Transcribed by Daniel Gaido.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.



FOR almost two decades the reactionary wave dominating the American scene has sought to stifle and suppress all varieties and manifestations of radicalism in the United States. Radical and revolutionary trends and thoughts have been proscribed and labeled as directed from Moscow, or Peking, or Havana. Their partisans have been hounded, slandered, harried and harassed.

During that same period, a new and vigorous radicalism has been making headway among the masses of black people, the largest and most combative oppressed grouping in the United States. This new radicalism develops to a large extent independently of the older, “white” radicalism, and in forms which baffle the comprehension of all white Americans, whether radical, liberal, conservative, or racist. The two most extreme variants of this new black radicalism are the pro-integration freedom fighters in the South, and the intransigent black nationalists of the northern slum ghettos.

It is not an uncommon thing for groups engaging in struggle against the same enemy to speak vastly different political languages and fail to achieve unity in a common fight against that enemy. When the factors hindering realization of such unity are lodged deeply in the society and in the history and consciousness of the contending groups, as they always are, one of the most important aids to such unity would be a clearing of the air, a comprehensive explanation of the nature of the disunity and its causes, as prerequisite to any meeting of the minds in a common effort.

Such disunity is striking and conspicuous in the black Freedom Now struggle, where a strong cleavage has developed – between those Negroes oriented in a nationalist direction, who engage in or promote struggles and methods of struggle not dependent on the notion of integration but instead aimed at building a black power base independent of and in opposition to the white power structure – and those Negroes viewing integration or assimilation into American society as an immediate goal and as a life philosophy.

Another conspicuous failure to unite is seen in the vast gulf separating traditional white radicalism from both wings of the new black radicalism, again despite the existence of a vicious common enemy.

The principal aim of the present article is to probe into the reasons why Negroes who are more or less oriented in a nationalist direction cannot understand or agree with what white radicals are trying to say, and to examine those aspects of the experiences and thinking of most white radicals which block their way to any understanding of how nationalist-oriented Negroes think and feel.

In some respects the inability of Negro integrationists to understand black nationalism and its implications is similar to the inability of white radicals to do so. Also, the new generation of white youth in partial rebellion against an unsatisfying and stale society generally identifies with the integration struggle in the South, but fails to respond meaningfully to the no-less-inspiring black nationalist revolt in the northern ghettos.

Down South – Up South

The heroic struggle of Negro students and communities in the deep Southland is viewed by white radicals as the brightest spot in the national picture. This is a struggle which white radicals and white liberals, too, can understand (they think), sympathize with and join in. Concomitantly, the white radicals often draw the conclusion that the nationalists are phonies compared to the freedom riders and sit-in fighters and that black nationalists are withdrawing from the real fight to escape to a never-never land. The southern front is seen as the plant and dominant feature of the entire Negro struggle.

The only thing right about that picture is that southern Negroes fighting for integration under severe odds and at great personal risk in the South are indeed heroic and inspiring, and their struggle is certainly the front line in the South today. The comparisons are all wrong. Up North (i.e. Up South), is not the same as Down South. The problems of northern Negroes are not identical with those of southern Negroes, however much they may have in common.

The “real” Negro struggle consists of several struggles on different fronts, all interrelated. Southern Negroes have to struggle for the most elementary rights: the right to sit anywhere on a bus; to walk on the sidewalk; to not suffer humiliation in ten thousand segregated ways; to cast a ballot in a meaningless election; to sit at a greasy-spoon lunch counter to get served tasteless food; to have access to educational facilities – the list is endless. All this is in addition to the problems that Negroes in the North and West of this great land have to cope with. But the focus of attention is different.

The struggles in the South are waged primarily to win aspects of integration which Negroes elsewhere already “enjoy.” Negroes outside of the South are more immediately interested in higher wages, better living and working conditions, job and educational opportunities, political power and a lot more: a society in which they can feel at home as a people, as humans; identification in their own eyes as part of humanity. Southern Negroes feel these needs too, but they are immediately occupied with more elementary struggles for which they have fashioned suitable weapons for the moment.

NORTHERN Negroes have always been lukewarm to the awkward efforts of white radicals to transplant southern issues, methods and outlooks (or what the white radicals take to be such) to the North, where other problems take the forefront. There is no lack of sympathy for the southern front, but what the white radicals have in mind in these efforts is not clear. Urbanized Negroes in the teeming hell-holes of Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, or Pittsburgh don’t have to freedom-ride on the bus or subway. They can eat in any greasy-spoon by legal right. Their kids can go to a token-integrated school where they will be taught decadent white American ideology and effete white American values (assuming these slum schools teach anything). A Harlem Negro can take a suite in the Waldorf Astoria if he has the money and wants to splurge it that way (and if he calls in his reservation from some non-Harlem address). It’s the law.

Then why aren’t northern Negroes content and happy with those beachheads of integration? Negroes in the North should seem about due for the great American melting pot. They have the formal and legal status, even more or less the economic status, of previous ghetto immigrants (Irish, Italians, Jews) who have long since been assimilated. So why don’t they melt? They have problems, true, but so did the other ethnic groups mentioned.

The bulk of northern Negroes are economically restricted to rat- and vermin-infested slum tenements and to the dirtiest low-paying jobs. But this was true of immigrant groups in the past. As long as they knew some of their brethren had made it to “success” and had hope for their children rising up in the American world, they didn’t lose faith in the American Way. A few became radicals but lost any interest in “that nonsense” as the society managed to absorb them. At no time was there a mass rejection of America comparable to what we see among Negroes today.

Why this paradox of growing black nationalism, stronger in the urbanized and integrated North rather than in the totalitarian, segregated South?

If Negroes in the North and West were headed straight into the American melting pot, with the unquestioned goal of becoming assimilated as have the various waves of immigrants from Europe and even from the Orient, then integration, and gradual integration at that, would be on the order of the day, with no serious challenge from any quarter. True, one ethnic group may have a harder time making it into the melting pot than another, but it’s all a matter of degree. It would only be a matter of time and grit before significant numbers of Negroes had made it. Nationalism would be at best something to amuse a few old cronies born in the South who never adjusted to big city life.

Would white radicals then be happier, seeing the urban Negro population all solidly in favor of integration and assimilation? Negroes in the North all “enjoy” to one extent or another the very elementary civil rights for which Negroes in the South are presently struggling. Yet it is precisely in the urban Negro proletariat that black nationalism finds its most fertile soil. Why should this be a source of distress, annoyance and chagrin to white radicals who are for fundamental changes and not just assimilation of Negroes into the status quo?

The white radicals would never have been able to influence these people, and they don’t know what to say to them anyway. A radicalization of these masses through a mechanism operating independently, infusing self-confidence, self-expression, powered by the tremendous appeal imparted by nationalist fervor, providing an avenue for the organization into a mass movement of previously politically unorganized and voiceless masses seething with hatred for the status quo – all this should be good reason for optimism among revolutionists. It might not be exactly what they expected; it is certainly not entirely to their liking or understanding, being out of their control; it is far from being an ideal political vehicle for revolutionary change; but it is a thousand times better than the alternative picture of the same hundreds of thousands of northern Negroes sitting it out patiently in the illusion of getting their chance to cash in on the American Dream.

Blind Spot

Another important and debilitating blind spot is the inability to perceive regional variations in the conditions faced by Negroes across the country, and in the response of Negroes to the problems posed by regionally varying conditions. This particular blind spot is not unique to white radicals, but affects black integrationists and nationalists alike. Almost everyone involved tries to figure out what “the Negro” wants or what “the Negro” is up to, as if all Negroes, North and South, on farms or in cities, whether isolated or living in huge ghettos like Harlem, faced the exact same set of problems with exactly the same outlook.

There is in fact a striking degree of homogeneity in the Negro struggle in many respects. This article concentrates on the less understood aspects of heterogeneity, particularly the gulf separating the southern integrationist from the northern nationalist. Clashes between these views could be minimized once their regionality is acknowledged.

Southern integrationists, white radicals, white liberals and northern integrationists all make the mistake of judging black nationalism not by its relevance to its natural habitat in the northern slum ghettos, but instead by how it measures up to the southern integration struggle. In turn, black nationalists not only react hostilely to the very mention of the dirty word “integration,” where it does not answer their problems in the North, but extend this reaction to condemn the methods and goals of the struggle in Dixie.

Many nationalists look down upon the integration struggle in the South (or North) with a contemptuous air, projecting the needs, conditions and inferences of their own ghetto life onto the southern scene, where Negroes are faced with added difficulties and a very peculiar white problem. In evolving their own dynamic, revolutionary ideology of a total and uncompromising break with the rotten white American society, many black nationalists attack not only the senseless goal of assimilation and ineffective integration tactics, but also the very vital and unpostponable necessities of the southern struggle.

Southern Negroes are beset by a million and one unbearable humiliations, cruelties and physical inconveniences which are peculiar to the South, and which must be eliminated now, here, all of them. Southern Negroes find it difficult to make much sense out of separatist leanings, while northern nationalists disdainfully sneer at the southern Negroes’ apparent longing to be “accepted” and “loved” by crackers.

But Negroes in Dixie are not really that eager to be merged with crackers; they simply want to get that big white foot off their necks and get a chance to breathe. Southern Negroes have to fight for the right to use transportation facilities, public toilets, schools, voting booths, hospitals, libraries, every trivial convenience which others take for granted.

Although the black South is predominantly integrationist in orientation, there is a formidable and deeply lodged nationalist potential beneath the surface. The integration drive of southern Negroes aims at breaking down specific Jim Crow barriers, not at merging or assimilating socially and ethnically with crackers. The gap between the Negro and white populations in Dixieland may be even greater than in the North. One of the major barriers to the spread of overt nationalism among Negroes in the South is the sectarianism of Northern nationalists; their lack of flexibility in adapting to the needs and aspirations of southern Negroes living under different conditions. This is a factor which can be corrected.

In any case, nationalism would certainly sweep the South if it were as integrated as the North. To the extent that integration begins to achieve “progress” in some parts of the South, we need not be surprised to witness an upsurge of black nationalism geared to southern conditions, especially in the case of large city ghettos like Washington, Atlanta, Birmingham.

Goals Not Lauded

Crucial, monumental and heroic though the southern integration struggle is, it is not native to the black ghettos of the northern integrated cities; nor does it answer the needs or fire the hopes of the inhabitants of those crowded, sordid slums. Northern Negroes respond with raging indignation to the spectacle of black people being beaten, hosed-down and hounded with police dogs in Birmingham, Alabama and Jackson, Mississippi; but not with any enthusiasm for the specific methods of struggle or the immediate goals of the campaigns conducted there.

Facing a set of generally different conditions in the North, northern Negroes cannot simply copy from the southern integration struggles, but must develop their own methods and goals, and black nationalism is a vital component in the northern ghetto struggle. The nature of the white problem is different Up South and Down South.

Northern nationalist-oriented Negroes are quite justified, in fact, in reacting with hostility to any attempts by white radicals, white liberals, or northern middle-class Negro assimilationists to force the northern struggle into the straight jacket of a southern mold, completely ignoring the different conditions, relationships of forces, history of struggle and needs of northern slum Negroes.

The notion that the “real” Negro struggle is centered entirely in the South, with the goal being integration and assimilation into the American Dream as envisaged by southern Negroes, northern middle-class assimilationists, white liberals and some radicals, is pernicious and diversionary to the Negro struggle in the ghettos of the North. The notion that acceptance by whites as fellow Americans is the highest “achievement” and “progress” that Negroes can hope for this side of heaven is insulting as well.

The implications of this massive swing toward nationalism are deadly for the prospects of the survival of the American Way. Of course, nationalist sentiment among Negroes, raised to whatever fever pitch, is not going to automatically alter the status quo substantially. But this is only the beginning of a process, not the end stages. And even at this early stage the promise of integration into the American Way of Life is insipid and empty to hosts of Negroes.

It is no tragedy, then, that so many Negroes are not wild about more integration and still more. The problem ahead is that black nationalist organizations are geared more toward expression of sentiment and propaganda than toward action aimed at winning material and political independence from the white power structure.

There is a tragicomic aspect in the spectacle of white radicals moaning that Negroes reject the society that these radicals themselves say history has condemned.

Thinking Black

“I got no flag. I got no country.” Negro teenager in San Francisco, victimized by “urban renewal” (June, 1963)

“... white people have nothing we want. They may have cars, clothes, homes. How they got it, that’s another matter. But they lost something important aways back ...” SNCC worker addressing Mississippi Negroes

In the eyes of most Negroes, white radicals appear to be far more attached to US society than black nationalists are. This should come as a surprise to white radicals. In the white radical framework of reasoning, the radical has the truly fundamental approach in explicitly stating a decision for socialism and against capitalism, thus definitively rejecting US class society in a manner matched by no other trend in society in the profundity and sweep of the break with the status quo. Emotionally, however, white radicals are more or less in harmony and even in love with America and American atmosphere (with American culture, if such a thing can be said to exist), and feel very much at home in the United States – their country. Of course, they are intensely interested in altering this society through some revolutionary change. Their break is with bourgeois society, not with US society, in the sense of the American (white) people and its “culture.”

Black nationalists, on the other hand, do not feel at all at home in the United States or among their alleged fellow Americans. No Negroes do, to tell the truth. Just as the society rejects them, black nationalists reject every aspect of that society which they identify as white. Remember that it is not just the bourgeois class society which rejects Negroes, but the whole of US society (including white liberals and radicals hostile to black nationalism). Negroes have the choice of trying to turn themselves inside out to live up to this white society and its perverse values or of rejecting this society and seeking values of their own.

A dominant culture decides for itself and for “everybody” what is normal, sane, in good taste; it sets the standards for maturity, intelligence, morality and human nature. It also sets arbitrary standards for what is to be beauty and good looks – what kind of nose and hair look “good.” Those aspects of human behavior and appearance which the dominant culture represses or to which it assigns a low value are looked upon with revulsion and ridicule and are considered a badge of inferiority. The dominant group projects its repressions onto the groups it dominates. It despises the latter for not measuring up to and not adopting the master group’s values. The victimized group may chafe under the “stereotypes” or may attempt to assert its own values. James Baldwin in Nobody Knows My Name eloquently states the case:

“One had the choice of either ‘acting just like a nigger’ or of not ‘acting just like a nigger’ – and only those who have tried it know how impossible it is to tell the difference.”

A Negro is nationalist in direct proportion to the extent of his rejection of this white society and his self-identification with Negroes as a distinct people. A useful definition of nationalism, in general, applicable to this case, is that offered by Essien-Udom:

“The belief of a group that it possesses, or ought to possess, a country; that it shares, or ought to share, a common heritage of language, culture, and religion; and that its heritage, way of life, and ethnic identity are distinct from those of other groups.” (E.U. Essien-Udom: Black Nationalism – A Search for an Identity in America)

US Rejected

Black nationalists entertain no hope or interest in improving any aspect of US society, not even through some white people’s revolution to come about in some far-off millennium. Black nationalists can find nothing good about the United States and its white people that might interest them: the materialistic, TV-crazy, chrome-plated, commodity-happy, H-bomb-wielding paradise of the white man has nothing to offer Negroes even if the greasy-spoons, public toilets, movie houses and public schools were integrated.

The white US has no music worthy of the name, no indigenous culture, no soul, no life, no poetry, no national purpose, no meaningful goals, no desirable friends abroad, no understanding of the world and its peoples, no genuine fraternal links with other peoples struggling to build a better world, no appreciably large mass of poor white people who appear to offer a reasonable prospect of being useful allies of the Negroes in the foreseeable future.

Even the white-led trade-union movement and the white US Communist party are shoddy specimens compared to their counterparts in other countries. Those few white rebels and critics who exist in conformist US white society do not speak the same language as the black rebels, are seldom interested in learning from the black revolt and are often a nuisance, if not just useless kibitzers to the Negroes they seek to advice.

Unlike youth in the newly developing African countries, Negro students have no prospect of studying and making their living in the service of their people, say as engineers, technicians, organizers of industry or statesmen. Liberals and radicals are generally aware of the crushing of incentive in Negro children faced with the dim prospect of getting decent jobs and opportunities. But the fact of not having a society to grow up into is at least as devastating. A few individual Negroes can achieve American-style “success.” They can have their pictures in Ebony as the First Member of the Negro Race to be admitted into such and such a position, pulling down so many thou-sand-dollars-a-year salary. But this “success” will be in the service of an alien society and an alien people, and will be measured by the yardsticks of an alien culture.

Black nationalists fight back against the cultural aggression of white America which floods and chokes Negroes with the symbols of its alien, vapid and decadent Way of Life. Increasing numbers of Negroes respond with revulsion and contempt to the Melting Pot, Old Glory, the Free World, Uncle Sam (the ugliest national symbol in the world), Our American Heritage, the Halls of Montezuma, Horatio Alger, I pledge allegiance..., rugged individualism, tall Texans, the clean-cut all-American Nordic look, God’s Country, gracious living, Southern hospitality, Clairol blondes and all the glittering Americana garbage peddled by Ebony magazine.

Unlike Negroes of any persuasion, white radicals along with all other melting-pot whites in the US genuinely feel that this is their country, not just in words but deep down in their bones. White radicals seek to identify with the country’s alleged revolutionary traditions from way back two-hundred years ago (in the days of our slave-owning and slave-whipping founding forefathers), and feel they are the realest and truest Americans. For Negroes, nationalist or not, this is sheer self-deception and escapism. Negroes are physically present in America, and their ancestors may have been here longer than some white families, but Negroes are not Americans if that word properly describes the white population. Negroes have never been such Americans, never will be such Americans, and many do not want to be or become such Americans (i.e. share the empty, cold, flatulent, materialistic, egocentric, Madison-Avenue-touted Way of Life dedicated to lies, property and the pursuit of selfishness).

White radicals have nothing in their experience that equips them to understand this complex of feeling in a real human sense. White radicals know from a distance and in the abstract of the powerful attraction of nationalist feeling in other countries – other revolutions. They can glibly quote great Marxist thinkers on the subject of “nationalism and self-determination.” But in dealing with black nationalism in the US white radicals attempt to apply their Marxist learning in a groping, clumsy way, usually contrasting the extreme abstractions of complete all-out assimilationist integrationism into America-as-it-is to the extreme of geographical separatism and back-to-Africa separatism. White radicals are capable of writing erudite documents replete with excellent quotes from Marx and Lenin pertinent to these two extreme variants, spend much time discussing the history of their disagreements with rival white radicals on the subject, pat themselves on the back for having the Correct Marxist Position on the matter, but remain deaf and blind to what Negroes are really concerned about in that area.

Buying Black

Capitalism versus socialism is not a crucial issue to Negroes at this time. While any trained white radical can point to some conceivable danger resulting in some conceivable situation from this ambiguity, white radicals lack a sense of proportion in attaching undue importance to the lack of explicit stands again capitalism per se on the part of Negroes not already recruited to white radical parties.

Why should Negroes in the US get worked up against the concept of capitalism as such? What in their experience would favor or hinder such an attitude? And why should their lack of interest in this great fundamental question be misinterpreted into some sort of acquiescence to capitalism? The answer to the last question is found in the formalistic and dogmatic approach common in the thinking of many white radicals. Since capitalism versus socialism is the basic question to the white radical, he is ready to judge and catalog other individuals and tendencies on how they respond to that question. As long as the cataloging encompasses social entities in the white world which he understands, the white radical categorizes well. Whites could be radically opposed to the status quo only insofar as they take an explicitly anti-capitalist, pro-socialist stand.

But Negroes are already a solid phalanx of non-capitalist mass, at the bottom of the social heap and in a state of continual economic depression and unemployment. There is very little of anything that deserves the name Negro middle class, and there is no Negro representation in the ruling class whatsoever. There are individual assimilated and ultra- assimilated Negroes in higher echelons of government service, and two Negroes now on the Stock Exchange. But this constitutes no independent social force sharing even a tiny fraction of power with the white ruling class. Black capitalism in the US is nonexistent as a social force, to the point of the concept being ludicrous.

While US Negroes are anything but explicitly pro-capitalist, the confrontation of socialism vs. capitalism as a concept leaves them cold for the most part. This is natural, since what US Negroes face is a hostile white world, with all sections and income levels from the Rockefeller and Kennedys and Goldwaters on down to the poor white worker and farmer arrayed against them in hostility, frigidity and contempt. In this hostile bloc of all classes, the white capitalist class does not stand out any more sharply in its hostility than the other whites, and may escape being on the mind of non-Marxist-oriented Negroes because of the lack of direct personal contact. No matter what Negroes say or don’t say, or think or don’t think about US capitalism as such, US capitalism is not and never has been any friend of Negroes, and the Negroes are no natural friends of US capitalism. White capitalism (the only capitalism in the US) is simply rejected along with the rest of white society.

Nor does the dream of a future socialist society attract or inspire Negro rebels. For white radicals, speculation about the society of the future looms large in importance. Negroes are much more intensely preoccupied with resistance to the present society. No black rebels need “faith in socialism” to strengthen and sustain their revolutionary ardor. In any case, the experience almost all Negroes have with white workers does not render the picture of a society dominated by “the workers” very alluring.

Now why should so many low-income black workers be interested in having black-owned businesses prosper? Once the existence of black nationalist feeling is acknowledged, some such attitude is to be expected. But the attitude is irritating to white radicals, rubbing them the wrong way on a fundamental point of doctrine, so that white radicals immediately feel impelled into a stubborn argument with any Negro who argues BUY BLACK! to the detriment of other points on which the white radical and Negro might find substantial common ground.

As the white radical pontificates on how capitalism is wrong no matter what the color of the capitalist is, and why separatism is no solution, and why the unity of Negro and white workers, etc., etc., ..., the Negro (not necessarily nationalist) will be thinking:

“This is a damn shame. This ofay is just against black people having money. He raises hell against capitalism and Wall Street at the top of his lungs right now, but in a couple of years he might forget all that jive and settle down and make him more bread than I will ever see. But it bugs him to see any black man accumulate money and power.”

Negroes have no experience with black exploiters; even if there are a handful somewhere in the country, they are too sparse to constitute a recognizable social phenomenon. The possibility of a black bourgeoisie (in the real sense, not E.F. Frazier’s) taking shape in the country is fantastic and remote.

The BUY BLACK! argument aims at making the black ghetto black, i.e. owned, managed and run by blacks. This urge seems to workers in the slums no less practical or feasible than the other “solutions” offered by middle-class integrationists or white advisers. The ghetto poor want to see “some of our own” make it. They will not accept any implication that everyone else except Negroes have the right to make big money. They want to see the black communities built up economically, independently of the white man’s stranglehold. Precisely the fact that the Negro middle class is too aborted, hamstrung, decrepit, straight jacketed, too cowardly, too damn Americanized to do that job – precisely that fact intensifies the urge of other social forces below them to try to do it and go even further to other goals.

Even though not feasible or achievable under capitalist conditions, particularly with the extra restrictions standing in the way of Negroes getting ahead in business, this urge is natural, progressive in its context and potentially explosive. White radicals who buck this sentiment head-on are sectarian idiots. [1]

Frustrating Experience

Attempts by non-middle-class Negroes to smash through these economic barriers, and clear the way for the feeble and stillborn Negro middle class, run into head-on conflict with the very essence of white capitalist society – that gigantic conspiracy against the entire Negro people. Race-discrimination by labor unions, banks refusing to issue loans to Negro businessmen, stores refusing to accept merchandise produced or marketed by Negroes, concerns refusing to place Negroes in managerial capacities (not to mention those which refuse to hire Negroes even in menial jobs) are subject to counterattack.

Running white businesses off the main drag in the ghetto is a popular notion, not at all limited to competing Negro businessmen. In fact, the latter are horrified when the people among whom the notion is popular get going in direct (physical) action to carry out such a Yankee Go Home! program. (Cf. the Harlem riots of 1935, 1943.) The end results may be no businesses left at all, only martial law on the streets.

The popularity of BUY BLACK! is natural. The workers in the ghetto slums have to take crap from white bosses on the job (and from white workers on the job), see white cops patrolling the streets shaking down numbers runners and beating heads. They rub elbows with alienated and distant poker-faced whites on the integrated subways or buses. But they don’t want to see whites raking in all the loot in the ghetto, too, running even the local drugstore, bar, soda fountain, clothing shop. This is a constant and grinding irritation. It is a more acute form of the irritation at having to look at white movies, white TV stars, grinning white faces on the advertisements, the dour and ugly faces of white presidents on the dollar bills.

What would an unskilled worker resident of the black ghetto have to lose by resonating enthusiastically to the Muslim rejection of white society, coupled with a program of complete separation? The ghetto inhabitant living in the integrated northern city is already about as, integrated as can be achieved by the methods used in the South by middle-class-led movements. Aside from that, he is already effectively separated in his residence, social ties, outlook on life, relation to society, job opportunities, freedom and opportunity of expression. It isn’t a bad idea at all to separate, politically if not geographically, from such an obnoxious society. The nationalist appeal doesn’t threaten to take anything away, and it offers much not found anywhere else.

Now, would that same unskilled worker stand to lose anything if the nationalist program was, or could be, carried out at this time? Frankly, this question is academic and unrealistic. The possibility of carrying out that type of separatist program would mean that almost all Negroes were involved in a violently anti-status quo movement, upsetting the stability of the whole country. Long before the situation reached that boiling point, other factors outside the black population and even outside the US would have been brought into play through the interaction between the black revolution and the instability of the powerhouse of the capitalist world right on its home grounds.

On the other hand, any counter-reform attempt to intensify discrimination or enforce segregation where it does not now exist would provoke ferocious resistance from all Negroes, whatever their orientation. Black nationalists promote a separation on terms decided by Negroes, not acceptance of humiliating and dehumanizing segregation conditions dictated by southern whites. These are not just words. No membership or following the nationalists could attract would tolerate it otherwise. In any case, the black nationalist movement in its present northern form gestates in and reflects the moods of the northern slum ghettos. It is silly to judge it by how it would “work” in Dixie. Southern “separate but equal” institutions are controlled by whites and forced on Negroes. The spread of black nationalism to the South will entail a fight against the entire Jim Crow structure to simultaneously smash down segregation barriers and build up black-controlled bases of power and an end to the grotesque and ludicrous Gandhian-Christian urge to win the “love” and “acceptance” of Southern racists.


1. Generally, white radicals will refrain from arguing with Negro integrationists who stress the right of Negroes to “make it” in the business world against existing obstacles.

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