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Albert Parker

The Negro Struggle

Court OK’s Covenants

(10 May 1948)

From The Militant, Vol. 12 No. 19, 10 May 1948, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

If you look only at the newspaper headlines about the Supreme Court decision on restrictive housing covenants, you would have a hard time finding out what it really means. Supreme Court Removes Realty Bars Against Jews, Negroes, said PM. Highest Court Rejects Jim Crow Realty Ban, said the N.Y. Daily News. Supreme Court Avoids Restrictive Covenants, said the Daily Worker. All these statements are false.

Instead of voiding restrictive covenants, the Supreme Court specifically approved them. That is the most important aspect of the decision, and nobody should be permitted to cover up that fact by exaggerating minor aspects. The Supreme Court remains what it was before – a judicial stooge for the enemies of Negroes and other minorities.

Here is an example of what the Supreme Court decision means: Let us take a certain neighborhood, where 100 real estate owners have gotten together and signed a covenant not to permit the sale or rental of any homes or stores in the neighborhood to Negroes, Chinese, Indians, Jews, etc. The Supreme Court says that is perfectly legal.

Now let us suppose that one of the real estate owners in the neighborhood decides that he can make more money by renting his property to a Negro, and he does that, even though he had signed a covenant promising not to. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled, the other signers of the covenant cannot use the courts in order to stop him. And that is all there is to this so-called historic decision. The other 99 property owners can go on discriminating against minority groups and they can even go on exerting pressure against the lone owner who wants to rent his property to minorities, but they can’t stop him through the courts.

If you look carefully at the decisions of the Supreme Court, you can observe a certain sinister pattern to most of them. Every time they seem to be granting a minor concession to the Negro people with one hand, their other hand is engaged in actually tightening the chains of Jim Crow. They rule that it’s illegal to give inferior accommodations to Negroes in inter-state transportation facilities; but in the very same breath they say it’s legal to segregate Negroes in transportation. They say it’s against the law to deny Negroes the right to a college education; but in the same ruling they put their stamp of approval on educational Jim Crow laws in the South. And now in the same decision saying courts can’t be used to uphold restrictive covenants, they extend their blessings on those same restrictive covenants.

Every time the Supreme Court hands down one of these double-edged decisions, some people go rushing into print praising this body and hailing its decisions as proof of what a wonderfully democratic government we are living under. Such people don’t know better, or else they are trying to kid the public. The decision upholding covenants actually proves that the Supreme Court is as much an enemy of the Negro people as the other sections of the capitalist government. It knows how to throw a crumb to the oppressed to maintain the fiction of its impartiality and disinterestedness, but it defends and upholds the status quo.

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