50 Years Ago: Demonstration in Washington
The demonstration by two hundred thousand people in Washington recently to protest at discrimination against the American Negro was an example of self-disciplined protest —restrained, yet massively determined. August 28th marked the flaring of accumulated frustrations that had smouldered for over two centuries. From this time forward the character of the Negroes’ struggle is altered, they have a national organisation and specifically formulated demands that they can pursue in the spotlight of world-wide publicity.
‘Nobody knows the trouble I seen’ is a familiar lament of a Negro blues song. It expresses the special misery of 19 million people who have inherited a legacy of hatred and violent suffering. Although it is possible to recognise it as a fact, nobody who has not experienced it can feel on his shoulders the harrowing burden of American Negro history. And even now, for the Negro, life offers unstinted humiliation, for added to his exploitation as a wage worker, in every corner of American social life he faces the pointed finger that accuses him of racial inferiority. (…)
It is vital that sooner or later Negroes should transcend any strong identification they have with what they may regard as an exclusively ‘Negro’ interest. At the moment, at least in America, this is made extremely difficult for them. In a hundred and one ways, American life drives the Negro into insularity and narrow fugitive attitudes, and to some extent, especially where democratic rights are concerned, their views can be understood.
At the same time, it must be remembered that there are no solutions to the problems of this world that hold out hope to any particular section of men without holding out hope at the same time to all men. Individuals have had the courage and the generosity to rise above the embittering agony of their recent history. James Baldwin writes ‘I am not a nigger—I am a man.’ We equally wish to simplify things and join in the refutation of ‘ Niggers,’ ‘ Yids,’ ‘ Wogs,’ ‘ Proddydogs,’ ‘Jocks’ and ‘White Trash’. We too want to celebrate —Man.*
(from article by P. L., Socialist Standard, October 1963)
*Note: today we would say ‘Human’.