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Albert Parker

The Negro Struggle

“Labor with a White Skin Cannot Emancipate Itself Where Labor with a Black Skin Is Branded.” – Karl Marx.

(7 December 1940)


From Socialist Appeal, Vol. 4 No. 49, 7 December 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Army Is the Boss!

Roosevelt knows how to put over his policy of Jim Crowism in the armed forces in a smooth and polished manner, but not all his assistants have the same experience and technique that he has. They often bungle and show the truth of the situation which his sweet words cover up.

For example, take the case of Brigadier General Hershey of the Selective Service Administration, one of the men in charge of the draft.

When he was asked in a recent interview how it happened that the administration was segregating colored soldiers and sailors when the Selective Service Act had a provision prohibiting racial discrimination in the armed forces, he replied:

“The act says there is to be no discrimination, the act also says that no man may come into the army who is not acceptable to the army. The navy, of course, is worse, and the marines will not accept colored applicants. I regret this state, but, unfortunately the army gets the final say.”

And then, as if to make sure that everybody got the point, he said, in discussing the policy of separate regiments for colored men:

“The selective service system has nothing to do with where the man goes. We are purchasing agents. What they do later is of no interest to us ... Even though the act provides against discrimination, the army has the right, to introduce the question of acceptability.

* * *

A Scabby Role

We have had occasion in the past to criticize the action of Edgar Brown, head of the United Government Employees, in approving Roosevelt’s Jim Crow policies in the armed forces, and to point out how he in this way played into the hands of the Negro people.

Now comes new testimony to corroborate our charges against him.

For last week, Judge William Hastie, civilian aide to Secretary of War Stimson, issued a statement which by implication at least tries to divert part of the blame from Roosevelt. Said he:

“divided opinion among colored citizens on the problem of segregation in the army makes for great difficulty in solving the problem. As long as people who are opposed to mixed units are able to point to colored persons as also agreeing with this position, our problem is extremely difficult ...”

Usually, when the great majority of the workers in a factory have organized a union and presented demands to the bosses for a contract and better conditions, one or two scabs appeal’ "who say that the boss is a great guy and doing what he can to help the workers, and so on, and the bosses always point to these scabs as justification of their attempts to smash the union. Brown is playing the same role as a scab in the fight against Jim Crowism.

* * *

It’s Always There

In Philadelphia last week “the city’s business, professional and military leaders” threw a luncheon at the exclusive Manufacturers’ and Bankers’ Club in honor of the first 150 young men they were sending off to the draft from that city. Among these were 16 colored men.

Then, the story goes, “twenty gifts were presented each of them by mid-city merchants and pretty girls pinned carnations on their lapels.”

Then Judge Vincent A. Carroll, a colonel in the Cavalry Reserves, had a speech to make about the Negroes and “national defense.”

“You are showing the world,” said he, “that the Negro people of this nation have at heart the maintenance of democratic freedom, as they have since Crispus Attucks, one of their race, lost his life on Boston Common with the other patriot martyrs of the Revolution.”

But the photograph of the affair printed in the newspapers shows – yes, you guessed it – the 16 Negroes segregated off at a separate table!

* * *

Cavalrymen Won’t Be Jim Crowed

An interesting story was printed in the Afro-American last week, telling of the determination of several members of the Tenth Cavalry situated at Fort Dix, N.J., not to be Jim Crowed.

Motion pictures were being shown at the post ’ theatre, and those in charge of it attempted to segregate Negro soldiers into one part of the building. They refused to be party to such an act, and left the theatre, demanding their money back.

But the most interesting part of the story tells the complaint of one of the men to the Afro reporter:

“The colored soldier is not promoted because of his character, intelligence and ability, he said, he is promoted because of his docile attitude, his inability to think for himself, and his willingness to accept orders from his superiors in a ‘hat-in-hand manner.’ The order to segregate the soldiers at the post theatre would be rescinded if our (colored) officers demand it, he said.”

This emphasizes again the need for a system of military training under control of the trade unions, which would end discrimination and segregation, and would establish special officers’ training camps to train workers to become officers, so that the worker-soldiers would have officers on whom they could depend to fight for their rights.

Next week we shall discuss the widely publicized Conference on the Participation of the Negro in National Defense, held at Hampton Institute, Va., and see what if anything it contributed to the fight for equality in the armed forces./p>

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