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The Negro and the War

By S. A. K.

3. The Summing Up

If we could look upon a relief map of American ideas, it would become entirely obvious that there is no level ground in the United States. There is no common plain of basic beliefs and doctrines. The South would appear as rough terrain, unshaped and untilled; the North as chaotic, volcanic land, constantly changing, never settled. Yet our mapmakers deceive us with their shiny flat charts of common ideals, freedom for all, malice towards none. They make war on those who would alter this idealistic map and make speeches against those who might threaten their imaginative portraits. But in all their speeches and in all their wars, they have forgotten the real land. Evidently, they have never surveyed the nation.

These mapmakers, our leaders, have blinded themselves to racial issues. Using the archaic pattern of segregation, they have interposed it upon all problems in their search for solutions. Although medical and chemical research has proven that the blood of Negroes does not in the least differ from that of whites, the Red Cross continues to set it apart from "regular" blood. Although men in the Army, as human beings, react similarly to given stimuli, the War Department insists upon segregating Negroes from whites.

But even in segregated units, men have a chance to fight, to do something towards the war effort. In war plants, however, traditional policies bar Negroes' doing anything. This refusal to institute a change in tradition, a break in the out-moded policies of another era in indicative of the difficulty any change in our way of life will encounter. The present use of Negroes in war plants is for immediate and expedient reasons. Attitudes of discrimination and prejudice still remain for the larger part, and change for merely practical reasons will not last.

The paths to the Negroes future are before us. It is the decision of the Negroes to choose the right path. One leads to fusion with whites, becoming not the Negro American, but merely the American. That this path stops at marriage seems little; it is not the ambition of Negroes to invade the privacy of family life. The other road leads to the development of the Negro within his own sphere. The latter would mean the serious organization of the Negro culture on a plane with that of other races. Segregation, if you like, but for development--not as a care-all for diseased racial relations.

The future, however, is determined by the present. We cannot plan for the future interminably, without actually doing something now. Negroes must be given educational opportunities, better health conditions, equitable security in agriculture. These are the things that open the way to that future of which statesmen and politicians speak so glibly and so surely. There must be meaning to our words of idealism. Those words can only realize their meaning in practice.

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