AS NOVEMBER approaches, the Presidential race seems to be too close for partisans of either side to take comfort. For a variety of reasons, internal and external, no racial or economic bloc in this year’s elections is more undecided, nor does any group have a better chance to swing a reasonably close election, than the Negroes. They do not want to be a racial bloc; they would prefer to vote as citizens, as individuals. But the Negro has been forced to think and to vote racially by the discriminations to which he is subject, by the coalition of Northern Republicans and Southern Democrats in Congress, and by the new awareness of race which the war has created throughout the world. The political lynching of Wendell Willie by the Old Guard Republicans and of Henry Wallace by the equally Old Guard Democrats was fought more consistently and is resented more deeply by the Negroes than by any other group of voters.
But let no one believe that the mass of Negro voters are thinking in terms of “a plague on both your houses.” They are not talking about going fishing on Election Day. The Associated Press prediction of a sharp slump in the number of votes this year does not apply to Negro voters–except those in the armed services, who, because of the connivance of Republicans with Southern Democrats, will not be able to vote. The Negro has been too deeply stirred by continued discrimination in the midst of’ a war for human freedom and is too apprehensive about the post-war situation to stay home on Election Day. He will vote, and with certain concrete aims in mind.
Negroes don’t expect too much from either party. They know that whatever they get they will have to fight for. They know also that their chances of success depend in considerable measure on general social and economic progress. These considerations will influence their votes next month.
They want full political equality–the same right to vote as white men, the right to run for elective offices and to be considered for appointive offices.
They want full civil equality–equal access to the protection of the law, and an end to Jim Crow in transportation, hotels, restaurants, recreation and entertainment, and all public facilities. They want an end to restrictive housing covenants–this could be made a condition of federal financial assistance–and they don’t want any so-called “equal but separate” accommodations; separate accommodations are by that very fact unequal.
They want full equality of educational opportunity– access to the same schools, and equal pay for Negro teachers at all levels.
They want full equality of employment opportunity– the all too familiar spectacle of the Negro college graduate working as a messenger boy or a dishwasher must go. This is a responsibility of management and of organized labor as well as of government.
Negroes know that federal action is essential in all these fields. They know that the states have demonstrated their inability or unwillingness to take effective action. They know too that the modern technique of those who don’t want a thing done is not to say they are against it but to say, “Let the states do it.”
Some progress has been made since 1940. It has been due almost entirely to pressure by the Negroes themselves, and it has strengthened their determination to continue the fight. The Supreme Court decision in the case of Smith v. Allbright has opened the Texas and Arkansas ballot boxes to Negroes in primary and general elections and has promised an end of disfranchisement throughout the South within two years. It has enormously stimulated political consciousness and a sense of political power among Negroes in seventeen Northern and border states which together have 280 electoral votes. If Negroes vote en bloc they can determine the choice of President and Vice-president, Senators and Representatives, in almost 150 Congressional districts.