Microphone Plays‎ > ‎

Race Hate Must Be Outlawed

The Orson Welles Program

Race Hate Must Be Outlawed

Aug 11 1946

WELLES: This is Orson Welles.

I've spoken these words before, but not on the radio.

To be born free is to be born in debt: to live in freedom without fighting slavery is to profiteer.

By plane last night I flew over some parts of our republic where American citizenship is a luxury beyond the means of the majority. I rode comfortably in my plane above a sovereign state or two where fellow countrymen of ours can't vote without the privilege of cash. I bought my breakfast this morning where Negroes may not come except to serve their white brothers, and there I overheard a member of some master race or other tell those who listened that something must be done to suppress the Jews.

I have met Southerners who expect and fear a Negro insurrection. I see no purpose in withholding this from general discussion. There may be those within that outcast ten per cent of the American people who some day will strike back at their oppressors. But to put down that mob, a mob would rise. 

I'd like to ask, please -- who will put down that mob? 

The scaly dinosaurs of reaction -- if indeed they notice what I'm speaking here -- will say in their newspapers that I am a Communist. Communists know otherwise. I'm an overpaid movie producer with pleasant reasons to rejoice -- and I do -- in the wholesome practicability of the profit system. 

But surely my right to having more than enough is canceled if I don't use that more to help those who have less

My subject today is the question of moral indebtedness. So I'd like to acknowledge here the debt that goes with ownership. I believe -- and this has very much to do with my own notion of freedom -- I believe I owe the very profit I make to the people I make it from. If this is radicalism, it comes automatically to most of us in show business, it being generally agreed that any public man owes his position to the public. That's what I mean when I say I'm your obedient servant.

It's a debt payable in service and the highest efforts of the debtor. The extension of this moral argument insists that no man owns anything outright since he owns it rent-free. A wedding never bought a wife. And the devotion of his child is no man's for the mere begetting. We must each day earn what we own. A healthy man owes to the sick all that he can do for them. An educated man owes to the ignorant all that he can do for them. A free man owes to the world's slaves all that he can do for them. And what is to be done is more, much more, than good works, Christmas baskets, bonuses and tips, and bread and circuses. There is only one thing to be done with slaves -- free them.

If we can't die in behalf of progress, we can live for it. Progress we Americans take to mean a fuller realization of democracy. The measure of progress as we understand it is the measure of equality enjoyed by all men. We can do something about that.

The way our fighting brothers and sisters looked at it -- some of them dead as I speak these words -- the way they looked at it, we're lucky. And they're right. We're lucky to be alive, but only if our lives make life itself worth dying for. We must be worthy of our luck or we are damned. Our lives were spared, but this is merely the silliest of accidents unless we put the gift of life to the hard employments of justice. If we waste that gift we won't have anywhere to hide from the indignation of history.

I want to say this. The morality of the auction block is out of date. There is no room in the American century for Jim Crow.

The times urge new militancy upon the democratic attitude. Tomorrow's democracy discriminates against discrimination; its charter won't include the freedom to end freedom.

What is described as a "feeling" against some races can't be further respected. "Feeling" is a ninnyish, mincing way of saying something ugly, but the word is good enough for race hate when we add that it's a feeling of guilt.

Race hate isn't human nature; race hate is the abandonment of human nature. But this is true: we hate whom we hurt, and we mistrust whom we betray. 

There are minority problems simply because minority races are often wronged. Race hate, distilled from the suspicions of ignorance, takes its welcome from the impotent and the godless, comforting these with hellish parodies of what they've lost -- arrogance to take the place of pride, contempt to occupy the spirit emptied of the love of man. 

There are alibis for the phenomenon -- excuses, economic and social -- but the brutal fact is simply this: where the racist lie is acceptable there is corruption. Where there is hate there is shame. The human soul receives race hate only in the sickness of guilt.

The Indian -- the Red Indian -- is on our American conscience; the Negro is on our conscience; the Chinese and the Mexican-American are on our conscience. 

The Jew is on the conscience of Europe, but our neglect gives us communion in that guilt, so that there dances even here the lunatic spectre of anti-semitism. 

This is deplored; but it must be fought, and the fight must be won. The race haters must be stopped. The lynchings must be stopped.

No matter who's gonna be governor of Georgia, the murders in Monroe must be avenged. Gene Talmadge may call it foreign meddling, but the Governor-elect -- who, you'll remember, campaigned on the Bilbo platform of race hate -- needs to be told that all the states in the union and all the people in them are concerned -- immediately, personally concerned -- when a mob forms in the sovereign privacy of Georgia. 

The mob said it was taking care of things in its own way. Well, then, we're gonna have to take care of the mob -- in our own way. 

Those who take the law into their own hands are going to learn about some laws that will tie their hands. We'll write those laws. And we'll enforce them. 

To do him justice, old Gene went and issued himself a statement. After the killings in Monroe were public knowledge, he said the killings were "regrettable." But old Gene's made it plenty clear he doesn't figure any foreigners got the right to poke around asking embarrassing questions. 

I am sending old Gene a copy of the Donne sermon on the tolling bell, but I don't suppose he'll get the point. The point is, of course, that no man, even Gene Talmadge, is an island entire of itself. The point, of course, is that even Georgia is a piece of the continent -- the American continent -- and if a clod be washed away by the sea, or if a colored man and his wife are murdered on a dusty country road -- America is the less.

And then there's the soldier in the hospital, the blind soldier. The soldier says he was blinded. And the mayor and the chief of police in the place where the soldier says it happened are most indignant with me for repeating what he said and swore to. The Times, the other day, was full of their official protests, sent under seal all the way up to New York City from within the inviolable borders of Aiken County in South Carolina.

My investigators are still hard at work on the case. If the soldier was wrong about the place, I'm gonna do something about it, but if he isn't wrong about his eyes -- he lost them -- I'm gonna do something about that.

All the affidavits from all the policemen in the world won't protest his eyes back in his head. Somebody -- somebody who called himself an officer of the law -- beat that boy with a stick until he lost his sight. Now that somebody is nobody; he's vanished, he's never been heard of, he hasn't any name. Well, he's going to be heard of. The blind soldier has my promise of that. That somebody is going to be named.

Editorials and lots of newspapers and lots of people are writing me to demand to know what business it is of mine. God judge me if it isn't the most pressing business I have. The blind soldier fought for me in this war. The least I can do now is fight for him. I have eyes. He hasn't. I have a voice on the radio. He hasn't. I was born a white man. And until a colored man is a full citizen like me, I haven't the leisure to enjoy the freedom that colored man risked his life to maintain, for me. I don't own what I have, until he owns an equal share of it.

Until somebody beats me, and blinds me, I am in his debt. And so I come to this microphone not as a radio dramatist (although it pays better), not as a commentator (although it's safer to be simply that). I come, in that boy's name, and in the name of all who in this land of ours have no voice of their own. I come with a call for action. This is the time for it.

I call for action against the cause of riots. I know that, to some ears, even the word "action" has a revolutionary twang, and it won't surprise me if I'm accused in some quarters of inciting to riot. Well, I'm very interested in riots. I'm very interested in avoiding them. And so I call for action against the cause of riots. 

Law is the best action, the most decisive. I call for laws, then, prohibiting what moral judgment already counts as lawlessness. American law forbids a man the right to take away another's right. It must be law that groups of men can't use the machinery of our republic to limit the rights of other groups -- that the vote, for instance, can't be used to take away the vote.

It's in the people's power to see to it that what makes lynchings and starts wars is dealt with, not by well-wishers, but by policemen. And I mean good policemen.

Oh, for several generations, maybe, there'll be men who can't be weaned away from the fascist vices of race hate. Then we should deny such men responsibility in public affairs exactly as we deny responsibility to the wretched victims of the drug habit. There are laws against peddling dope; there can be laws against peddling race hate.

That every man has a right to his own opinion is an American boast. But race hate is not an opinion; it's a phobia. It isn't a viewpoint; race hate is a disease. In a people's world the incurable racist has no rights. He must be deprived of influence in a people's government. He must be segregated as he himself would segregate the colored and Semitic peoples -- as we now segregate the leprous and the insane.

Anything very big is very simple. If there's a big race question, there's a big answer to it, and a big answer is simple -- like the word "no."

This is my proposition: that the sin of race hate be solemnly declared a crime.

What makes this difficult is the conservative fear of raising issues. Let's admit that this fear is often no more sinister than an honest dread of going to the dentist. But let's respect the effectiveness of reactionary manipulations of that fear, which is the fear of anarchy and revolution. It is put to wicked use against the same general welfare conservative opinion seeks to protect. Forced to acknowledge Hitler's enmity, conservatives are loathe to admit that even as he surrendered in Europe, he succeeded in America. Let conservatives evaluate the impudent candor of fascism in Argentina today and be reminded that the heroic survival of our liberty is no proof of its immortality.

Our liberty has every day to be saved from marauders whose greed is for all things possessed by the people. Care of these possessions is the hope of life on this planet. They are living things, they grow -- these fair possessions of democracy -- and nothing but death can stop that growth. Let the yearners for the past, the willfully childish, learn now the facts of life, the first of which is the fact of that growth.

In our hemisphere the growing has begun, but only just begun. America can write her name across this century, and so she will if we, the people -- brown and black and red -- rise now to the great occasion of our brotherhood.

It will take courage. It calls for the doing of great deeds which means the dreaming of great dreams. Giving the world back to its inhabitants is too big a job for the merely practical. The architects of freedom are always capable of hope. The lawmakers of true democracy are true believers; they believe, quite simply, in the people -- in all of them. 

Only the devout deserve the trust of government for only the devout can face the unimaginable vistas of man's destiny. God grant them steadfast hope, and the rest of us enduring patience. For we must not expect from any leadership a shiny, ready-made millennium in our time. 

No one of us will live to see a blameless peace. We strive and pray and die for what will be here when we're gone. Our children's children are the ancestors of a free people. We send our greetings ahead of us, to them. To history yet unmade, our greetings. To the generations sleeping in our loins: 

Be of good heart. 

The fight is worth it.

That just about means that my time is up. When my time's up, it's time for me to say goodbye and to invite you, please, to join me, at the same time at the same station, next week. Until then -- thanking you for your attention -- I remain, as always, obediently yours.

ANNOUNCER: This is ABC, the American Broadcasting Company.