Nov 16 2012
Professor G’s presentation “Red Cross Double Cross” was an interesting topic. I never took into consideration that there would be racial conflict with replacing the blood of U.S. soldiers that was being lost during World War II. When Prof. G began speaking to us, he organized his presentation into five questions which he asked us to ponder on. Question 1; “what were the Jim Crow policies and how did they develop?” Somehow the population was misled into a thought process that ignorantly linked the relationship between race and blood. Race relationships and racial tensions led to this division and ultimately laws and policies were developed with these ideals at their foundation. Sadly, this is due to past scientists proclaiming that the blood of the African-American was different from that of white people. This notion spiraled out of control. The American Red Cross was advertising to the nation to donate blood for the soldiers that was fighting for our country during World War II. Sylvia Tucker went to an American Red Cross in Detroit to donate blood which was denied due to her being African-American. Ms. Tucker did not agree, so she wrote a letter of protest to Eleanor Roosevelt. The denial of African-American blood from the American Red Cross became a consistent thing across the nation. Blood became segregated just like everything else. The countries armed forces fighting against Nazi racial discrimination and hatred would only take the blood of white folks.
Question 2: What was the response to these policies? Everyone from high ranking positions to 16 year old high school students in New Jersey had something to say about this injustice. African American communities and a wide variety of allies fought for democratic practices. They were able to utilize media to promote the ideals that these policies were unfair and faulty and ultimately devastating to the nation. Other civil rights organization such as the Core, Committee of Racial Equality began to get involved in the fight. In addition they saw protest from various Red Cross chapters, as well as prominent doctors and scientist who supported the science of no difference between black and white bloods.
Question 3 Who supported this policy and why?
Interestingly the presenter suggested that the Red Cross never used scientific proof to defend this policy. They simply indicated that the support of segregated blood was “expedient and democratic.” It was their belief that because the majority (whites) did not want to receive black blood, it was only fair that majority gets what they wanted: white blood for white people. West Virginia Former Senator Byrd was one of the major advocates shaping the policies on blood and segregation. However, what polls showed when average white citizens were asked if black and white blood was the same, approximately 1/3 thought it was the same, 1/3 thought it was different and 1/3 did not know. So it would seem that the policy was supported by antiquated policies and ideals of a few that were supported and tolerated by the many. I believe that these issues still persist, most average people have not given detailed thought the policies held by organization and our government in general. Discussions are made by few who represent the “many.”
4 Was this policy faithfully followed in the battlefield?
The speaker indicated that blood remained officially segregated before and after war. However, it seems that there is no evidence that blood was strictly segregated on the battlefield
5 Why do we care?
-History matters because it helps figure out who we are and where we came from individually and collectively. It helps us understand present day icons in relationship to major events like WWII
This blood history reminds us that there was great division rather than unity. It questions the notion of commitment: were whites more committed to segregation than the war effort?
This blood story is absent from our mainstream understanding of American history. It shows that marginalized African Americans, the average people. It was in the efforts of these average individuals that we see democracy actualized.
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