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It is with a feeling of mingled pride and trepidation that I have brought myself to accept this quite flattering invitation to speak here this evening, which has been accorded me by your honorable president, Mr. Duncan.
Pride, in that one young in years and experience should be felt worthy of addressing this audience.
And trepidation, in the knowledge that the audience before me is a highly intellectual and critical one—seasoned with the experience which comes only with years.
But I took courage, and acceded—and so here I am.
Really, I've been in quite a predicament to know about what to speak upon.
I might have chosen one
― 2 ―of the many vital problems confronting the race, and with my meager knowledge, attempt to analyze and solve it.
But I must know that there are many here who could do such more thoroughly and authoritatively than I.
I might have loaded myself down with statistics or facts, or pro and con arguments and come here to try to convince you of the truth or falsity of some profound proposition.
But I was pretty clever, and I anticipated that there would be a woman or two in the audience and so I knew it would be utterly futile to try to convince them of anything. That's one truth I've learned even at my tender age.
And so I have chosen a topic more to my own liking,
― 3 ―and, I hope, one which may prove more to yours.
I have decided merely to attempt to portray briefly for you the thoughts of one of the "younger fry" upon some of our modern problems—to illustrate perhaps, that the younger negro is really alive to his own and his Race's needs—and that he is, perhaps, doing a bit of constructive, progressive thinking.
It occurs to me that the older and the younger generations of our race are quite estranged. — They live, so to speak, in worlds apart. They lead different lives, think differently upon differing issues
― 4 ―and are far too often arraigned against one another. But the good of our kind demands universal unity.
I sincerely hope that the general opinion of the younger negro as held by the older folk isn't that generally expressed in the customary barber-shop ballyhooing.
I rarely ever step into my barber-shop but what I hear some "old-timer" ranting and raving about the evils of the modern-day society.
He invariably disparages the young negro.—Calls him wild—criminal—evil—everything but good. And without fail he ends up by the sinister prophecy that
― 5 ―the young negro of today is dancing and "motoring" his way straight to hell.
You all know the type—and the future of the race is indeed a dark and ominous one, if we are to accept his rantings as gospel. But I'm not so inclined.
And so it is perhaps, a good thing that we may be permitted to exchange ideas—true—the exchange may be an unequal one—for your ideas are the children of a far more fertile experience than ours—but there really is, you know, much that is truthful in that well-known saying—"out of the mouths of babes."
In taking some of our
― 6 ―more immediate problems, it is no doubt appropriate to dwell briefly upon one which is most timely at present—namely—politics.
Politics have played quite an important role in the history of our people. — It was politics intermingled with economic motives which led to our enslavement—and it was certainly politics plus the same economic motives and a certain degree of philanthropic decent-mindedness in the north, which led to our liberation.
I don't wish to detract from the glory of that most glorious of men—Abe Lincoln—no man ever stood for the right more staunchly than he. But had it not been for this great
― 7 ―game of politics and its attendant virtues or vices, however we may regard them, Abe Lincoln could never have convinced the north and held them to his course.
Due to the very nature of the circumstances surrounding its emancipation, the negro Race became almost solidly Republican in its party affiliation.
And this position it has, and largely continues to maintain to the present day.
Whenever a block of negro votes is to be found, there is a block of Republican votes. And this irrespective of the merits or demerits of the party candidate.
If he is a Republican—he is good—if he is anything
― 8 ―else, he is unworthy of consideration.
Such an attitude has had its advantages in the past—likewise its disadvantages. But I believe such a policy has fulfilled its mission, and is no longer called for today.
I think that I can truthfully sound a warning to you that the new negro isn't thinking in terms of Republican or Democrat any longer—he is thinking in terms of men and merits!
The young negro will no longer support a candidate merely because he signs his name—John so and so—Repub.—We don't intend to follow in the rut of single-track Republicanism or anything elsim [sic].
― 9 ―We are interested not so much in knowing the candidate's party affiliation, as in knowing what he has done—and what he is likely to do—and more important—what are the probabilities of his benefiting the race?
The young negro voter is becoming emancipated from the chains of traditional blind party allegiance just as surely as our forbears were freed of the more obvious but no more restricting bonds of physical servitude.
The young voting negro today might well be likened to the Texas colored man who had been in a virtual state of slavery to his
― 10 ―Southern white "boss." But by dint of careful saving he was able to take a short trip to Los Angeles, and partake of the freedom and grandeur of the Southland and, more particularly, the pure, liberty-inspiring atmosphere of our own Central Avenue.
Needless to relate, the Texas colored man returned home truant and rebellious. He didn't try to regain his old job—oh no. — But his Southern master finally came to him and said: "Sam, you'd better
― 11 ―come on back on the job—we've just killed a new batch of hogs, and I've got some mighty fine hog-jowls for you."
But Sam just shook his kinky head wisely, and with a superior air, told the white man—"Uh uh boss—you ain't talkin' to me—no suh—I've been to Los Angeles and I don' want yo' old hog-jowls, cuz I'm eatin' highoh up on de hog now!"
And so it is with the rising voter—he's kicking
― 12 ―off the shackles—voting for men—not parties or traditions—he's looking a "little higher" than mere party ties.
Then to dwell a bit upon an ever-vital question among our group—that of racial discrimination and segregation.
Whatever may be the attitude of you older people toward this dastardly practice of insolently slapping the Race in the face, I can tell, in all sincerity that there is a violently smoldering fire of indignation among those of us who are younger in years and who have
― 13 ―not yet become inured to such insults.
And I sincerely offer the prayer that we never shall become so.
I hope that the future generations of our race rise as one to combat this vicious habit at every opportunity until it is completely broken down.
I want to tell you that when I think of such outrageous atrocities as this latest swimming pool incident, which has been perpetrated upon Los Angeles negroes, my blood boils.
And when I see my
― 14 ―people so foolhardy as to patronize such a place, and thus give it their sanction, my disgust is trebled.
Any Los Angeles negro who would go bathing in that dirty hole with that sign—"For Colored Only," gawking down at him in insolent mockery of his Race, is either a fool or a traitor to his kind.
It is true we have made a rather feeble protest against it. But why stop with that—because of a slight set-back? Must we go on passively like
― 15 ―lambs in the fold and accept such conditions, which can only be the forerunner of greater discrimination in the future?
Or should we not rise in a body to fight such an absurd action in a state which guarantees freedom and equality to all alike?
If we have a segregated swimming pool—segregated in the ultimate sense of the word, too—for that pool is for colored and colored only—no white people are admitted—
― 16 ―tho there are white residents in the neighborhood who desire to make use of this so-called "public utility."
If we accept this can't you see that we will only too soon have separate inferior schools, parks, and who knows, perhaps even jim-crow cars forced upon us?
I think I speak sanely when I say that if it costs the negroes of Los Angeles a cold million dollars to overcome this menace, the money should be willingly contributed, for it would certainly be well-spent.
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If we don't combat such segregation to the bitter end, we can draw only one conclusion.—That the Los Angeles negro is cowed—that he lacks racial pride and racial consciousness.
My ideal type of negro is that type personified in the story of the old Southern darkey who owned a small bit of land on which was planted sugar cane.
It happened that soon after the great Teddy Roosevelt had returned from his famous big game-hunting trip, he and a
― 18 ―small party were making a short trip thru the South by motor. The party by chance, stopped momentarily close by the old darkey's abbreviated plantation.
Roosevelt was fond of sugar cane, and spying the choice stalks growing upon the old negro's land, with characteristic impetuosity, strode over and broke off several stalks.
The old man had been watching every move and seeing the President's actions, ran over and
― 19 ―began to remonstrate excitedly with him about the theft.
A member of the president's party immediately interceded, explaining to the old negro in awe-inspiring tones that the accused one was "the great Teddy Roosevelt."
The old negro looked upon the interceder with a look of scornful disdain, and replied—
"Huh! White man—I don' care if he's Booker T. Washington, he can't steal my sugarcane."
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To that old man, Booker T. Washington, his fellow Race-man personified the greatest of all men.
I only wish that the great men of our own race, and there are a goodly number of them, were better known by our people.
If they were, I am sure that racial pride and integrity would be at a much higher ebb.
And this leads to the final topic to be discussed, which perhaps, is to our Race the most vital of all at the present time. Whatever progress we
― 21 ―may make in the future, whatever forward steps may be taken toward the breaking down of this infernal inferiority complex which besets so many of our kind; whatever success we may have in convincing the other races of our absolute equality in every line of endeavor, must come thru the medicine of ever-increasing education.
Education, to the negro, is the keynote for his advancement. Education is the panacea
― 22 ―for his ills.
Young negroes must attain higher education in increasingly larger numbers. Else we need not hope to successfully compete with other peoples.
We must meet their standards or be left in the rut. And heaven knows we've been in the rut long enough already.
And its up to all of you older folks to lend encouragement and help to the coming generations in their struggle for education. Other races do it, so why not ours?
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Our youngsters have a trebly difficult task in their efforts to obtain an education as it is, and we can hope to educate the Race universally only by an extensive, spontaneous spirit of helpfulness on the part of the older folks.
There is much that our Negro business men can do in aiding aspiring Race students. Along such lines as part-time employment, scholarship awards, etc. our local business agencies and our many clubs as well have wonderful opportunities
― 24 ―of aiding the educational movement.
But it's no secret that much that could and should be done isn't being done.
You know it's often said of our Race that we are "kings of the alibi." We can have more good intentions and do less than any other people on earth, but when we are brought to task for our failure to do "so and so" we can always immediately produce a ready alibi.
But you know Hell
― 25 ―is paved with good intentions!
Say what we will, this matter of increased educational advantages is a very serious one.
Before we can build up successful business organizations which can meet our white rivals on an equal footing, we must have educated, trained, men to run them.
We can't run a ship without seamen, and we can't run our businesses
― 26 ―successfully without trained experts.
The best and wisest investment our Race can make today is along increased educational opportunities for our coming generations.
I'm sure that the returns will far exceed our fondest hopes. All we younger folks ask of you is to give us a little cooperative encouragement—just a little better than a fighting
― 27 ―chance, and we'll guarantee you achievements which will compel the other races to afford the negro that respect which is his due and birthright!
We have youth—we have racial pride—we have indomitable will and boundless optimism for the future—so we can't help but come out on top of the heap!
True, we have certain modern ways and
― 28 ―mannerisms which some of you can't quite reconcile with what you term "decency." But times change, you know. Short skirts, bobbed hair, dancing—the Charleston, etc. all find accord in the conventions of today.
So don't disparage us too much for our modernism. We are merely the children of our age just as you were in your youth.
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All we ask is for you to lend us a helping hand—jump up on the band-wagon with us, and we'll assure you that by the time we've had the advantage of a few more years experience, we'll make you all proud of the young negro.
He'll make his mark in the world today, just as you have made yours; and then he'll go you one better!