As Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson was sensitive to international criticism of American racial issues, often fomented by the Soviets and accentuated in the US by progressives like Henry Wallace, Eleanor Roosevelt and the NAACP. Fully aware that Congress would not support a leftist social agenda, the Supreme Court was pressured to deliver a decision Acheson could peddle internationally.
Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865
America’s Reward for Racial Progress
“From the end of World War II to the inauguration of Richard M. Nixon, American governmental policy moved steadily from advocacy of desegregation to support of race blending in schools and neighborhoods. It moved from the principle of equality of rights to that of preferential treatment for Negroes.
The original school desegregation decision said nothing more than that children should not be deprived of the right to attend any given public school by reason of their race. By 1970, this had been expanded to authorize compelling local authorities to transport children to schools outside their residential neighborhoods in order to achieve a racial mix corresponding to that of the population.
Similarly, the original court decisions upholding equal access to governmental jobs, regardless of race, were transformed into their direct opposite, preferential hiring of Negroes in public jobs and consequently deliberate violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
The reasoning behind some of these strange developments was foreshadowed by an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court in the school desegregation case by President Truman’s attorney general. “Racial discrimination,” that officer declared, “furnishes grist for the communist propaganda mills, and it raises doubts even among friendly nations as to the intensity of our devotion to the democratic faith.”
Attorney General McGranery then incorporated what he called an “authoritative statement” from Secretary of State Dean Acheson which stated in part: “the hostile reaction among normally friendly peoples, many of whom are particularly sensitive in regard to the status of non-European races, is growing in alarming proportions.
In such countries, the view is expressed more and more vocally that the United States is hypocritical in claiming to be the champion of democracy while permitting the practice of racial discrimination here in this country.”One of the present authors commented on this essay by Mr. Acheson ten years ago in the following terms:
“If the Court of 1952 was prepared to weigh political factors in making a Constitutional interpretation, Acheson’s memorandum was subject to criticism because of its oversimplification and calculated omissions. It was true that Southern treatment of the Negro was resented abroad. The Supreme Court knew this. What it did not know and was in no position to judge was the total effect of a desegregation decision in terms of the world position and prestige of the United States.
Would it split or unite the country? Would it convince the world that the United States was the champion of racial equality? Or would it focus international attention for years to come on race struggle and race hatred in the United States, placing these ugly aspects of American life under a global spotlight? These were questions which an American Secretary of State should have attempted to answer provided he thought it was proper for him to inject himself into the case at all.”
These misgivings have, it would seem, been amply justified by the course of events. The United States has undertaken a historically unparalleled effort to raise the Negro by governmental action to the political, cultural, social and economic level attained by the white man. In the pursuit of this objective, it has spent billions of dollars.
It has promoted men to positions for which they are not qualified solely because they are black. It has persuaded universities to admit students who do not qualify educationally or mentally exclusively because of their color. It has filled some of the highest positions in the executive and judicial branches of government on the basis of race and without regard to merit.
The reward the United States has reaped is to be denounced across the world as a racist State and as a recrudescence of Hitlerism. By contrast, the Japanese, who continue to oppress one and a half million Etas, have been silent about their misconduct and it has passed unnoticed.
The Indians, who have abolished caste more in name than in fact, remain immune from world criticism even though their untouchables are still largely pariahs. The masochistic traditions of liberal Protestantism, reformed Judaism and modern Catholicism to the contrary, those who publicly display their sores are tagged with the leper’s bell.”
(American Statesmen on Slavery and the Negro, Nathaniel Weyl & William Marina 1971, Arlington House, excerpts, pp.386-388)