Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 1, No. 15. July 13, 1938
The American Negro — Political Status and Education
The American Negro
Political Status and Education
In view of the fact that the i.e. Moyne debaters will be back in Wellington shortly, the following interview "Salient" obtained with M. S. Thompson, a recent coloured visitor to this city, may be of interest.
"Although the American negro In legal status is an ordinary citizen, in the South his social position is subject to discrimination and segregation still further prevents him competing with the white man as an equal. In business life, such interests as banks and corporations are not in favour of placing negroes in leading positions. So you see the undeveloped state of native life offers small opportunity for the intellectual negro who has little room to apply his skill. There are too many coloured lawyers and doctors being turned out. I suppose I shouldn't say that, but opposition and prejudice are too strong—there is only opportunity for a restricted number of educated natives; competition among them pushes up the minimum qualifications necessary and men with degrees are appointed to such trivial Jobs as clerkships or are forced into other uncongenial work.
"More money should be spent on the illiterate masses, although education has become compulsory for natives in most States recently.
"In the Southern States after about 1900 people more or less woke up to their responsibilities and educational facilities were extended—but county training: schools, the improvements of negro universities and libraries were mainly due to private enterprise, which sometimes stimulated action by public authorities—but not often. These philanthropic organisations in America have made up in a way for the lack of interest by American public authorities.
"The negro has had impressed upon him the Idea of his inferiority, and education is likewise affected. Schools are at the mercy of prejudiced county hoards, and this means poorly paid teachers, shortness of text books and other things. [unclear: Several] subjects are excluded intentionally from school programmes, because it is desirable for the protection of "white labour" not to have skilled natives in particular subjects. The negro school is a poor copy of the white school, and as long as the South reels the colour barrier, and the necessity to 'keep the negro in his place.' there will never be found the reasons to change these conditions. However, the negroes of the North are better off in this respect in advanced education there are better facilities: for Instance, in New York City, at the negro university everything is free—no fees or [unclear: books] to be paid for: the student [unclear: merely] pays his own personal expenses.
"The political situation is acute, too. When the negro in the South was defranchised, large groups of whites were disfranchised too and through judicious manipulation of the one party system this white majority has not received its emancipation. These people feel the pressure of negro competition in industry, etc., the most, and by manipulation they are made to keep their distress in the background, because the anti-native sentiment is exploited to the full in negro-baiting during campaigning; and it is in the Interest of Senators to [unclear: more] the economic distress of these peoples. Of course, the negro franchise is fairly recent—just of the last 10 years—and the necessary qualifications are the ability to read and write. In [unclear: the] South the negro is not [unclear: represented in] the legislatures, but in the North we have men in the House of Representatives, and even in some Government work. But the Southern negro vote is sometimes used In municipal elections of a nonpartisan nature, and in Presidential elections."
"Have the negroes any leaning in their voting?"
"At one time there was a leaning to Republican—that was because the Republican Lincoln freed the negroes—but now they vote any way. In the North things are much better several States even hold the balance of power and have used it in their own Interests. For instance take Mississippi, where 57 per cent, of the voters are coloured."
"Are the negroes very religious?"
"Are they what?" said Mr. Thompson scratching his head very [unclear: violently.] "Too religious, too many churches: that's what's holding them hack. Religion is a curse—still. It's the white man's way to come and preach a big [unclear: scare] then grab you or your [unclear: land] while you're praying. And the [unclear: Ku Klux Klan?] Seems to me anyone they are against has the law used against him or her-over trivial matters, too. A friend of mine, coloured, had a son aged six who had a real boy's scrap with the next door neighbour's kiddie. Next night my friend was ordered to leave the neighbourhood immediately or suffer the consequences. Of [unclear: course] he stayed, with the result his [unclear: hopes] was wrecked and he was [unclear: tarred] and feathered. It appears that the next door neighbour, a member of the [unclear: Kian] wanted to get even over the hiding his son had received!"
"How do the negroes in Haiti and the Philippines fare?" asked "Salient."
"Don't ask me on that it's a sore point with me." said Mr. Thompson, his wrath rising visibly. "All [unclear: I will] say is that the place is not Americanized and never [gap — reason: illegible] the [unclear: Yanks are just there after honey to work] The negroes out and keep them slaves. They are [unclear: hardly] looked after, and the [unclear: American are the wrong people to improve condition from purely philanthropic interest if there's money to squeezed out come where and you] can pretty safely but all Americans out supervision under Doctrines or other [unclear: promptings] are all for her own interests never for the uplifting and guiding of the natives as is suggested."