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OUR INTERNATIONAL CONSCIOUSNESS.
[The ideas expressed in the title of this chapter were formulated as early as 1915 when I was in the unique position of being the black leader and lecturer of a white lecture forum, organized by white liberals, radicals and others at the old Lenox Casino, at 116th St. & Lenox Ave., New York City. What white people in general thought of the value of my services at this forum can be read in a letter written by a white southerner and appearing in the New York Globe of December 15, 1920. After the closing of this lecture forum the same explanation of the racial significance of the whole process of the war was expressed in other lectures given to white people at a lecture forum which I maintained in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. I make these explanations here because I value somewhat the point of priority in the face of Mr. Lothrop Stoddard's remarkable book, “The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy" and the sweeping tide of racial consciousness which found expression subsequently in those Negro newspapers and magazines which have been called radical.]
The White War and the Colored World.
The newspapers which we read every day inform us that the world is at war. Searching the pages of the statisticians, we find that the world is made up of 17 hundred million people of which 12 hundred million are colored—black and brown and yellow. This vast majority is at peace and remains at peace until the white monority determines otherwise. The war in Europe is a war of the white race wherein the stakes of conflict are the titles to
possession of the lands and destinies of this colored majority in Asia, Africa and the islands of the sea.
There can be no doubt that the white race as it exists today, is the superior race of the world. And it is superior, not because it has better manners more religion or a higher culture; these things are metaphysical and subject to dispute. The white race rests its claim to superiority on the frankly materialistic ground that it has the guns, soldiers, the money and resources to keep it in the position of the top-dog and to make its will go. This is what white men mean by civilization, disguise it how they may. This struggle is a conflict of wills and interests among the various nations which make up the white race, to determine whose will shall be accepted as the collective will of the white race; to decide, at least for this century, who shall be the inheritors of the lands of Africa and Asia and dictators of the lives and destinies of their colored inhabitants.
The peculiar feature of the conflict is that the white race in its fratricidal strife is burning up, eating up, consuming and destroying these very resources of ships, guns, men and money upon which its superiority is built. They are bent upon this form of self-destruction and nothing that we can say will stop them.
As representatives of one of the races constituting the colored majority of the world, we deplore the agony and blood-shed; but we find consolation in the hope that when this white world shall have been washed clean by its baptism of blood, the white race will be less able to thrust the strong hand of its sovereign will down the throats of the other races. We look for a free India and an independent Egypt; for nationalities in Africa flying their own flags and dictating their own internal and foreign policies. This is what understand by "making the
world safe for democracy.” Anything less than this will fail to establish "peace on earth and good will toward men." For the majority races cannot be eternally coerced into accepting the sovereignity of the white race. They are willing to live in a world which is the equal possession of all peoples—white, black, brown and yellow. If the white race is willing, they will live at peace with it. But if it insists that freedom, democracy and equality are to exist only for white men, then, there will be such bloodshed later as this world has never seen. And there is no certainty that in such a conflict the white race will come out on top. Not the destinies of the world, but the destinies of the white race are in the hands of the whtie race.—1917.
There is one advertisement which appears in the magazines, on the streets and bill boards which has always seemed to us a masterly illustration of the principle of repetition. When going to work in the morning we look up from our daily newspaper and see the flaring sign which states that U-need-a Biscuit, we may ignore its appeal the first time, but as the days go by the constant insistence reaches our inner consciousness and we decide that perhaps after all we do need a biscuit. At any rate, whenever we have biscuits to buy it is natural that the biscuit which has been most persistently advertised should recur at once to our minds and that we should uy that particular biscuit.
We beg to call the above apologue to the attention of the white people of this country who guide the ship of state either in the halls of Congress or through the columns of the white newspapers. They are seemingly at a loss to account for the new spirit which has come over the Negro people in the Western world. Some pretend to believe that it is Bolshevism--whatever that may be. Others tell us that it is the product of alien agitators, and yet others are coming to the front with the novel explanation that it springs from a desire to mingle our blood with that of the white people.
Perhaps we are wasting our time in offering an explanation to the white men of this country. It has been proven again and again that the Anglo-Saxon is such a professional liar that with the plain truth before his eyes he will still profess to be seeing something else. Nevertheless we make the attempt because we believe that a double benefit may accrue to us thereby. Does any reader who lived through the years from 1914 to 1919 and is still living remember what "Democracy" was? It was the U-need-a Biscuit advertised by Messrs. Woodrow Wilson, Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau and thousands of perspiring publicists, preachers and thinkers, who were on one side of a conflict then raging in Europe.
Now, you cannot get men to go out and get killed by telling them plainly that you who are sending them want to get the other fellow's land, trade and wealth, and you are too cowardly or too intelligent to go yourself and risk getting shot over the acquisition. That would never do. So you whoop it up with any catchword which will serve as sufficient bait for the silly fools whom you keep silly in order that you may always use them in this way. "Democracy” was such a catch-word, and the honorable gentlemen to whom we referred above advertised it for all it was worth—to them. But, just as we prophesied in 1915, there was an unavoidable flare-back. When you advertise U-need-a Biscuit incessantly people will want it; and when you advertise democracy incessantly the people to whom you trumpet forth its deliciousness are likely to believe you, take you at your word, and, later on, demand that you make good and furnish them with the article for which you yourself have created the appetite.
Now, we Negroes, Egyptians and Hindus, under the pressure of democracy's commercial drummers, have developed a democratic complex which in its turbulent insistence is apt to trouble the firms for whom these drummers drummed. Because they haven't any of the goods which they advertised in the first place, and, in the second place, they haven't the slightest intention of passing any of it on—even if they had.
So, gentlemen, when you read of the Mullah, of Said Zagloul Pasha and Marcus Garvey or Casely Hayford; when you hear of Egyptian and Indian nationalist uprisings, of Black Star Lines and West Indian "seditions" -kindly remember (because we know) that these fruits spring from the seeds of your own sowing. You have said to us "U need a biscuit,” and, after long listening to you, we have replied, "We do!" Perhaps next time—if there is a next time—you will think twice before you
furnish to "inferior" peoples such a stick as "democracy" has proved for the bludgeoning of your heads. In any case your work has been too well done for even you to obliterate it. The Negro of the Western world can truthfully say to the white man and the Anglo-Saxon in particular, “You made me what I am today, I hope you're satisfied.” And if the white man isn't satisfied—well, we should worry. That's all.-July, 1920.
Our Larger Duty. The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the Color Line. But what is the Color Line? It is the practice of the theory that the colored and "weaker” races