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E.R. McKinney

One Tenth of the Nation

(23 August 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 34, 23 August 1948, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).


During the past three and a halt months while in the shop for physical repairs and reconditions, I have accumulated a few clippings which deal with Negroes. The funniest of them is about the reaction of the British editors to the victory of the U.S. in the 14th Olympiad. Also the manner in which British editors explained the defeat of real white men and above all real Englishmen, by black men from the U.S.

The following quotations are from Views of Sport, a column by Red Smith, sports editor of the New York Herald Tribune.

After the British entry had been defeated by the American Negro, Barney Ewell from Lancaster, Pa., a London paper announced: “McCorquodale Holds U.S. to No. 1.” When this same native British white McCorquodale ran third behind Dillard and Ewell, two American Negroes, a British paper complimented McCorquodale on being the “world’s fastest white human.” When the photographs of the 400 meter relay were developed it was revealed that the American team composed of three Negroes and one white runner had really won the race. However, one British paper screamed on front page: “Our Victory Is Victory No Longer; Camera Gives Race to U.S.” And Red Smith comments: “The camera, mind you, not Ewell, Dillard, Lorenzo Wright and Mel Patton.”

Some of the British papers blamed the defeat of English athletes on the austerity diet. Red Smith points out, however, that the “steak-fed Americans were shut out in all distance races, where stamina is essential.”

“Just Like White Folks”

There are people in this country who are also worried. For instance, there is the man who wrote to the New York Herald Tribune, H.C. Tuthill from Eastport, N.Y. Tuthill is outraged by people who write and talk about Negroes being mistreated in the South. Tuthill knows what he is talking about because he left the North to run a tobacco plantation in North Carolina after his 48th birthday. “I had some 40 tenants, about 30 Negro and 10 white.” Tuthill found that the division of the crops “was exactly the same with the Negro as the white.” He also discovered that the Negro was equal to the white in other ways. For instance: “each bought their supplies at the same places at the same price, and they sold their crops at the same places at the same price.” Tuthill does not say, but presumably they bought from him and sold to him. “Also, they (Negroes) have their hospitals and schools and buses go over the same routes to carry their children to school. So how can anyone make such statements as some that I have read?” Another proof that Negroes are not abused is that “many of them own their own automobiles; you will see them outside of their churches on Sundays.”

There we have it. Negroes in the South are not mistreated. They are allowed to own automobiles and to park them in front of “their churches on Sundays,” just like the white folks. The police don’t tow them away. Furthermore, buses carrying Negro children to Negro schools run on the same roads as buses carrying white children to white schools. Southern states don’t build separate roads for buses loaded with black children. There are Jim Crow schools and Jim Crow buses but by the beard of Robert E. Lee, neither Southerner nor copperhead Northerner (Tuthill) will tolerate Jim Crow roads.

A correspondent who signs himself Reb Hull writes to the Herald Tribune. He objects to the series by Ray Sprigle now running in that paper. Reb doesn’t like “the emotional manner in which Mr. Sprigle presents his material.” He objects to the statement of Sprigle that the Constitution is a mere scrap of paper to the Southern Negro. Reb knows better. “The Constitution, I believe, insures freedom of worship, freedom of expression, freedom from want. Nowhere in the South will one find a Negro deprived of his church. If the Negro expresses himself courteously, he will not be mistreated because his opinion is averse to the Southern white.” Reb is also convinced that any Negro will be supplied with food and lodging in the South “if he applies in the proper channels.”

Mississippi Liberalism

One can laugh at Reb and Tuthill. They are mere ignorant nobodies. Ten to 15 years in a New York State night school might do them some good. At least they might learn how not to make a complete ass of oneself in print. But down in Mississippi there is a man by the name of Hodding Carter. Carter is the editor-owner of the Delta Democrat-Times in Greenville, Miss. Last year Carter won the Pulitzer Prize for this articles on racial intolerance. I suppose that one should be thankful for any small ray of light which shines out from Mississippi, probably the most backward spot in the civilized world. About the best which can be said for Mississippi is that Negroes there are not so bad off as the Jews under Hitler or the unfortunates in Stalin’s Siberian slave labor camps.

This man Hodding Carter is alleged to be a “liberal,” or better a “Southern liberal.” I suppose, to be precise and careful, one should say a Mississippi liberal. Carter is just as wobbly as Reb and Tuthill. In fact, he is worse because he is an educated man, a man of experience and ability. Reb and Tuthill are just two big-mouth ignoramuses.

Carter has written an article for the New York Times Magazine, entitled A Southern Liberal Looks at Civil Rights. Carter wants to talk to the “extremists within and outside the South.” This is an old game of the Southern “liberal.” He is against all extremists, North and South. But who are the Northern extremists and what do they advocate? What do the Southern extremists advocate? I would like for this liberal Carter to tell us who are the Northern Bilbos, Rankins, Talmadges, Eastlands, Dorns, Thurmonds? Where are their counterparts in the North? Certainly not in Congress. There is not a governor in the whole North who can be compared with the governor of Mississippi. Senator Taylor of Idaho is the only Northerner who goes through the ignorant clownish antics and monkeyshines of the Southerners in Congress. But otherwise Taylor is one of the Northern extremists Carter is talking about.

Carter, the liberal, takes solace in the fact that the poll tax “in itself does not discriminate against the Negro alone.” That’s what the Civil Rights Report said. Carter goes on in his role as advocate for the Southern lynchers, disfranchisers and segregates. “The proposal to make lynching a federal offense appears to most white Southerners as evidence of a gratuitous disregard for the South’s own success in reducing lynchings to a nearly non-symptomatic incidence.” I don’t know what this sentence means, but I am certain that it will have no effect on the next Mississippi mob bent on lynching some Negro woman or burning the Negro section of the city.

This Carter is a scoundrel. He knows that whatever reduction in lynching which has taken place in the South was not due to any initiative on the part of Southerners. It was due to shifting economic conditions which include the organization of Southern workers and the attempt to increase industrialization in the South. It was due also to merciless public criticism heaped on the South from the North and the exposure of Southern savagery in all the enlightened countries of the world. This is what brought the Southern liberals into the struggle. Whatever of improvement which has been initiated by the Southern leadership has been in order to head off action of the federal government. If there had been no campaign in the North and no pitiless publicity of the South, one would have heard very little from the Dixie liberals.

Vicious and Ignorant

Carter finds that although segregation may be wrong in theory, “it is also an actuality which the white majority in the South intends to maintain in its mass aspects.” What does the liberal Carter think of this? Nothing, except that “as a theory” segregation is wrong. The liberal Carter is convinced that “a standing army would be necessary to end segregation in the South.” This is plain nonsense of course, but we don’t want to discuss that now. We are interested to inquire what camp Carter would be in on that day.

Carter has discovered that the Negro is becoming less and less vital to the “changing economy” of the South. This is, of course, just more nonsense. Is the Negro to be excluded from the factories as the South becomes more industrialized? Then what will the South do with them – all 10 million of them? How will the South be able to move forward as an industrial area and follow a course which the North has been forced to abandon?

All that Carter has really done in this article is confirm what has already been said about the South: it is a backward, ignorant, vicious, corrupt and incredibly stupid section.

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