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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.

(1 February 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 5, 1 February 1941, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Jim Crow Air Pilots

One section of Public Law No. 18 of the last Congress, adopted almost two years ago, directed the War Department to train Negro air pilots. The War Department, undoubtedly with a wink of the eye from the White House, ignored this section of the bill completely.

Last week, however, it announced that qualified Negroes would be accepted into the Army Air Corps with the formation of a squadron that will begin training this month.

This announcement has been a long time coming, and it undoubtedly would have been longer if it hadn’t been that a long series of Negro protests developed. Then Yancey Williams, engineering student at Howard University, filed suit in the United States District Court, against the Secretary of War and four major-generals, for their rejection of his application to enlist in the Air Corps. Only then did the War Department move.

But anyone who concludes from this that the generals in the Army or the bureaucrats in Washington have in any way changed their basic policies toward the Negro people, because of a little law suit, is quite wrong.

For the bone that has been thrown the Negro people to shut them up is Jim Crow through and through.

The new unit, a pursuit squadron, which will receive its flying instruction at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, is for colored only, and will be the only unit for colored. This means that the policy of segregation, which has been praised as “satisfactory” by Roosevelt, remains untouched.

Creation of the new unit, said Undersecretary of War Patterson, “is in keeping with a policy of including colored persons in every branch of the Army.”

To which Marjorie McKenzie, Pittsburgh Courier columnist, has aptly replied:

“According to our interpretation, this is in line with a policy of excluding colored persons from every branch of the Army, except a few Jim Crow set-ups ...”

There isn’t much to the bone. When the squadron is finally organized it will include only 33 pilots and 27 planes, with a ground force of about 400 enlisted men.

Immediately after the plan was announced, the National Airmen’s Association, made up of Negro flyers throughout the country, passed a strong resolution condemning the plan and reaffirming its determination to win complete equality in the Air Corps.

“Both the army and navy have stressed tradition in arguing against the abolition of segregated units,” said C.R. Coffey, national president. “In the air corps there is no tradition, either favorable or unfavorable to complete racial integration. If we permit the establishment of a Negro unit, it will be establishing a precedent which will be hard to break down. We’d rather be excluded than to be segregated ...”

The whole incident is striking proof of our contention that regardless of what Congressional or legal action is taken or decision made, the officer clique, as long as they are in control of things, will disregard them or find some way of getting around them and maintaining their segregation-discrimination policies. The way out is to take that control away from them. That is why we call for trade union control of military training.

War Industries Jim Crow

The recent report by the National Urban League, the organization most closely in touch with statistics dealing with hiring and barring of Negroes from the war industries, shows that very little progress has been made in breaking down the discriminatory practices employed by the bosses and their employment managers.

According to the report, those employers who were questioned were “practically unanimous” in claiming that they barred Negroes not because they themselves personally were opposed to them, but because they were afraid that the white workers in their plants would resent it, and “it might lead tor serious labor trouble, or at least sufficient ill will to interfere with efficient production”.

In this way, the bosses who are guilty of Jim Crowing the Negro try to palm off the responsibility on the white workers – who were never consulted in a single case by the bosses about what they thought about hiring Negroes. Thus the bosses accomplish two things: they bar the Negro, and then they build up antagonism among the Negroes toward the white workers. “Divide and rule” is the motto of the bosses.

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