SOUTHERN SEGREGATION AND THE COLOR LINE
Let not man join together What God hath put asunder. -William B. Smith"THERE Is no power in the world-not even in all the mechanized armies of the earth, Allied and Axis-which could now force the Southern white people to the abandonment of the principle of social segregation." These are the words of Mark Ethridge, Editor of The Louisville Courier-Journal. (1)
Mr. Ethridge, who is known as a Southern liberal and whose opinions on the race question are often criticized in the South, was in this case offering no opinion, passing no judgment, but he was simply stating what he knew to be the truth and what is indeed an established fact.
The principle of segregation of the white and Negro races in the South is so well known that it requires no definition. Briefly and plainly stated, the object of this policy is to prevent the two races from meeting on terms of social equality. By established practice, each race maintains its own institutions and promotes its own social life. The residential areas of the towns are segregated; separate schools are maintained; separate accommodations are provided for the members of each race in public places and on the trains, busses, and street cars.
In an article entitled "For Plain Understanding," The News, and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina, made the following observations on race relations in the South:
The negroes are entitled, no more and no less than white people, to the enjoyment of the legal rights as citizens, including the right to qualify as electors when they can, and to vote, free from intimidation or interference.The South is determined that segregation of the races be "enforced at all costs." In this section where three-fourths of the Nation's Negroes live and earn a livelihood, the people fully realize that as long as the black race is within our midst, racial segregation is necessary to preserve racial integrity.
Southern people know what it means to live in states where the number of Negroes ranges from 25 to 49 per cent of the total population, and they know what steps are necessary to maintain race and culture. Negroes in Mississippi comprise 49 per cent of the population; 43 per cent in South Carolina; 36 per cent in Louisiana; 35 per cent in Alabama; 35 per cent in Georgia: 27 per cent in Florida; 27 per cent in North Carolina; and 25 per cent in Virginia.
In the South where the Negroes live in such large numbers, the color line was rigidly established and has been just as rigidly maintained. As practically applied, the color line classifies as white only those who are of pure white blood and classifies as Negroes all those of pure Negro blood and of Negro and white blood mixed. With this line tightly drawn, the separate races then live under the policy of racial segregation.
Just as there have been whites in the North who have disregarded the color line and preached miscegenation. there have been some whites in the South who have practiced it. But the Southern white people have drawn the color line unflinchingly and without deviation and have attributed to the Negro race those with any degree of Negro blood. Thus, the miscegenation which has occurred-as deplorable and unforgivable as it may be-has not altered in any degree the purity of the blood of the white Southerner.
The South may be said to have established a record in world history in race relations. Three hundred years could have been sufficient time for the Southern White man to become submerged in the black mass about him; and if our forefathers had not been faithful to race and traditions, the United States would now have to point to a hybrid Dixie. But white Southerners have maintained racial integrity: the purity of the white blood in the South can not be disputed. As proof of her faithfulness through three centuries of immediate contact with multitudes of Negroes and nohvithstanding abuse and condemnation from many sources in this country, the South now offers some thirty million Saxon sons and daughters for the Nation's use in war and in peace. Let any one who doubts the wisdom of racial segregation or fails to understand the South's loyalty to the color line make a study of conditions in South America. When the Spaniards arrived on that continent, they conquered the Indian tribes, but instead of expelling them as the English did in North America, they ruled over them and married their women. These Spanish and Portuguese adventurers save in the south of the continent seldom brought their families to the new world and were more interested in obtaining wealth than in implanting race and culture. When the Negro slaves arrived, the colonists mixed with them as freely as they did with the Indians.
The fusion of whites and Indians produced mestizos; the fusion of whites and Negroes produced mulattoes; the fusion of Negroes and Indians produced zambos. Mongrelization started in South America, and there was no power to stop it. The population began to consist of mestizos, mulattoes, zambos, terceroones, quadroons, cholos, musties, fusties, and dusties. There were crosses between Spaniards and Indians, Spaniards and Negroes, Spaniards and yellows; crosses between these half-breed off-spring and the whites and blacks; crosses between mongrels of one kind and mongrels of another kind; half-breeds, cross-breeds, mix-breeds soon infested the land!
A single half-caste race, with here the Negro and there the Indian predominating over the conquering Spaniard, obtains from the Atlantic to the Pacific. from the frontier of the United States to the southern limits of the continent .. American Indians, Negroes, Orientals and Europeans of different origin, are creating the race of the future in homes in which mixed blood is the rule . The Negroes of the Congo have mingled equally with the Spanish and the Indian. The African woman satisfied the ardor of the conquerors; she has darkened the skin of the race ...The Negro is a formidable influence in America (Latin America). But they are revenged for their enslavement, in that their blood is mingled with that of their masters. The black race is doing its work and the continent is returning to its primitive barbarism. This retrogression constitutes a very serious menace. In South America civilization is dependent upon the numerical predominance of the victorious Spaniard, on the triumph of the white over the mulatto, the Negro and the Indian.We have no right to point the finger of scorn at South America. Rather, let us pay our respect to the whites who have withstood four centuries of contact with the mongrels and hybrids and remained white. Together with the later immigrants they compose only some ten per cent of the population. but with this group lies the future of South America. We have no time to waste in weeping for the blood which has been corrupted in these neighboring Republics; nothing can restore it. The same fate can overtake our own Nation unless we seek a permanent solution to our color problem. We have withstood three centuries of racial contact and remained white. But many times three centuries are ahead of us, and each succeeding generation faces the Negro problem grown to new proportions.
As we have seen from our study of race relations in world history, (4) there are only two permanent solutions to the race problem: physical separation of the races or their blood amalgamation. Until one or the other of these occur, the problem remains. While this Nation has not yet seen fit to adopt the policy of physical separation of the races, racial segregation and the color line have thus far prevented the corruption of the blood of the white race. It is true that the color line has been the ideal of the Nation as a whole, yet it has been the Southern people living in the midst of the great majority of the Negroes who have met the rigid test and maintained this ideal. As long as the Negroes remain in our midst, Southern white people will use every means at their disposal to continue the policy of racial segregation.
Southern whites, therefore, will not at any foreseeable time relax the taboos which keep the races separate. They fear and believe that once a small crack is made in the walls of social segregation, the walls will eventually be breached. Yet there are whites and Negroes who would attempt to break down segregation by federal fiat. Let them beware. He who attempts to change the mores of a people by law runs risks of incalculable gravity. I have no doubt that in such an event southern white men would spring to arms and the country would be swept by civil war. (5)What is the real issue at stake? Why this determination on the part of the South to maintain the color line and to fight back with all her strength against the combined efforts of certain groups in our Nation, white and black, (6) to break down segregation and to destroy Southern ideals and customs ? The answer is simple. The South stands for blood, for the preservation of the blood of the white race.
To preserve her blood, the white South must absolutely deny social equality to the Negro regardless of what his individual accomplishments might be. This is the premise - openly and frankly stated - upon which Southern policy is based. This position is so thoroughly justified in the minds of white Southerners that it is sometimes difficult for them to comprehend the reasoning of those who seriously dispute it.
The alternatives are as clear as the sun. If we sit with Negroes at our tables, if we attend social functions with them as our social equals, if we disregard segregation in all other relations, is it then possible that we maintain it fixedly in the marriage of the South's Saxon sons and daughters? The answer must be "No." By the absolute denial of social equality to the Negro, the barriers between the races are firm and strong. But if the middle wall of the social partition should be broken down, then the mingling of the tides of life would surely begin. It,would be a slow process, but the result would be the same. And though the process be gradual, it would be none the less irresistible and inevitable. The lower strata of the white population would probably feel the first effects, and within the foreseeable future the middle and upper classes would be invaded. Then, the Southern white race, the Southern Caucasian, would be irretrievably doomed.
For no possible check could be given to this process once established. Remove the barrier between two streams flowing side by side - immediately they begin to mingle their molecules; in vain you attempt to replace it. Not even ten legions of Clerk Maxwell's demons could sift them out and restore the streams to their original purity. The moment the bar of absolute separation is thrown down in the South, that moment the bloom of her spirit is blighted forever, the promise of her destiny is annulled, the proud fabric of her future slips into dust and ashes. No other conceivable disaster that might befall the South could for an instant compare with such miscegenation within her borders. Flood and fire, fever and famine and the sword - even ignorance, indolence, and carpet-baggery - she may endure and conquer while her blood remains pure; but once taint the well-spring of her life, and all is lost - even honor itself. It is this immediate jewel of her soul that the South watches with such a dragon eye, that she guards with more than vestal vigilance with a circle of perpetual fire. The blood thereof is the life thereof; he who would defile it would stab her in her heart of heart, and she springs to repulse him wih the fiercest instinct of self-preservation. It may not be that she is distinctly conscious of the immeasurable interests at stake or of the real grounds of her roused antagonism; but the instinct itself is none the less just and true and the natural bulwark of her life. (7)Whenever the mingling of the races on terms of social equality is permitted, then the possibility of intermarriage must be admitted. If the social segregation of the white and black races is destroyed, then intermarriage becomes a question of the personal preference of the individual. The possible might then become the actual. There are all sorts of people, and there is no explanation for the actions or tastes of some individuals; for example, note the recent marriage of the twenty-one year old white girl from Canada to the corpulent, fraudulent, pot-bellied, coal-black, seventy year old Negro who calls himself Father Divine.
If social equality should be granted and intermarriage should become a matter of individual taste, then the pride of race and the sense of blood superiority which has heretofore protected the Southern whites would be destroyed. Racial self-respect has been the rock of salvation of the South. Because the otherwise proud Spaniard in South America did not possess this characteristic, he amalgamated with the colored races around him, and the results are evident for all the world to view. Anyone who would destroy racial pride and break down segregation of the races in the South by implanting the infamous doctrine of social equality must realize that such efforts would plunge Dixie into hopeless depths of mongrelism.
The white Southerner firmly, absolutely, and irrevocably denies the contention of the social equality advocates that mongrelization would not degrade the South. Any one who is familiar with the pages of history and the doctrines of biology must know the dangerous results of the amalgamation of the white and black races. That the Negro is inferior to the Caucasian has been proved by six thousand years of world wide experimentation as well as craniologically, and that the mingling of the superior with the inferior will result in the lowering of the higher is just as certain as the fact that half the sum of six and two is only four. (8)
Even if only the lower strata of whites mingled with the upper strata of Negroes, the result would be the same. Not only would the other circles be broken within the foreseeable future, but it is wholly erroneous to contend that a child is born of its immediate parents only. Every child is a child of its race, and there is no escape from the almightiness of heredity. However weak the white man, his ancestors produced the greatness of Europe; however strong the black, his ancestors never lifted themselves from the darkness of Africa.
Should the social barriers in the South be broken down, the mongrel poison would spread far and wide, and there would be no power sufficient to stop it. Once the blood has been corrupted, neither fame nor fortune, neither culture nor science, not even religion itself can ever restore its purity. If the blood of the white and black races mixed freely within her borders, the South, like the white race, would be forever doomed. Pure blood may flow in some veins, but who could prove it? And no power on earth can redeem the vitiated blood of a race.
At this point, the advocates of social equality are quick to point to the miscegenation which has already occurred in the South. Those who advance this argument must either advocate widespread miscegenation or admit that the South should strengthen her racial barriers instead of removing the ones which exist. We deplore the conditions which have poured a broad stream of white blood into black veins, but we deny that any appreciable amount of black blood has entered white veins. As disgraceful as the sins of some white men may have been, they have not in any way impaired the purity of Southern Cancasian blood. Southern white women have preserved the integrity of their race, and there is no one who can today point the finger of suspicion in any manner whatsoever at the blood which flows in the veins of the white sons and daughters of the South.
The South stands for blood, for the preservation of the blood of the white race. We shall not relax in any way whatsoever the social barriers which have been erected to maintain the purity of that blood. The South will not grant to the Negro race social equality with the whites. There may be individual cases which claim our sympathy and appeal to our sense of fair play, but it is no more a case of individual justice than of individual morality. It is a question of preserving for ourselves and for our posterity the blood, heritage, and culture of the white race.
If the racial instinct of the white race is so strong, then wherein does the danger lie? There is, of course, no real danger when the instinct is aroused and on guard. Without a doubt, this has been the salvation of the South. But today a constant warfare is being waged against this instinct, and every conceivable effort is being made to destroy it altogether or to drug it to sleep in the name of science, of democracy, or of religion. (9) Time and time again the white South is scorned and ridiculed; her people are called "unenlightened" and "prejudiced"; her customs and institutions are insulted and attacked. Agencies of the Federal Government, men and women in high office, powerful political organizations, pressure groups, various associations and individuals are throwing the weight of their power and influence to destroy racial segregation. When those who are preaching social equality are advocating a policy which would be ruinous to the South, can they expect the Southern people to sit idly by?
Let no one doubt but that the fighting South will defend her position. In our section the Negro problem is neither academic nor hypothetical; we live in the midst of it. The South will pledge her strength, wealth, and sacred honor to maintain racial segregation and the color line. Mr. Ethridge was right. There is not enough power in all the world, not in all the mechanized armies of the Allies and the Axis, including the atomic bomb, which could now force white Southerners to abandon the policy of the social segregation of the white and black races.
But let us be realistic. What about the next generation and the next and the next? The Southern whites are in the minority when it comes to determining the policy of the Federal Government; the Negro problem increases yearly; and there are centuries ahead of us. The South needs help, and for the sake of generations yet unborn the South pleads for that help before it is too late. Alone and unaided, Southerners may maintain a white South for many decades yet, and we shall do so in spite of all outside attacks, even those coming from members of our own race, whose battles we are also fighting. But the South can hope for no permanent victory over the Negro problem without the aid of the North, East, and West. We must have the help of the entire Nation to bring about the physical separation of the races. This is a problem which the Nation created and which only the Nation as a whole can adequately and permanently solve.
When tyranny, backed by immense power, attempted to intimidate the Northern colonies, the South, though not immediately concerned in the struggle, cried, 'Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?' (Henry.) We know the result. The South made common cause with their endangered 'brethren' and the American nation sprang into existence Race and culture are imperiled in the South as they never were in the North. There are millions of Southerners who wait for the powerful white North to say, 'Our brethren are in the field! Why stand we here idle?' (10)