The Charlotte News

Saturday, April 16, 1938


Site Ed. Note: The notion advanced in "Just Another Drive", that of "slum clearance and improvement", instead of placing stress, as did the County Solicitor, on eliminating the juke joints and other such "dives", as a move toward salving the growing murder rate in Charlotte, followed on the excellent week-long series of articles and pictures which The News, led by reporter Cam Shipp, undertook in February, 1937, something to which Cash gave special praise in The Mind of the South.

Eventually, in spring, 1939, came from this crusading journalism a Federal grant to Charlotte for the construction of a new housing project to replace the slums, obviously not a perfect solution, but a start and a laudable one for 1939. (See "It Isn't Like Us", March 22, 1938, "A Start Toward a Start", September 19, 1938, "Outline of the Slums", October 24, 1938, "Now to Begin", November 3, 1938, "Thimble, Thimble--" and "Who's Got the Thimble?", December 6, 1938, "U.S. Housing Is Now Cheap Enough for the Poor", by Cam Shipp, December 13, 1938, "We Applaud Ourselves", December 19, 1938, "A Wise Father", May 5, 1939, "A Puzzler", February 26, 1941, and, more on the topic in the 1930's South in general, "Roosevelt Looks to Odum", July 17, 1938, and "The South Hides Its Eyes", October 2, 1938.)

Indeed, it is the insistent cycle of poverty, lack of proper nourishment, lack of proper sleep on which to make a day at school worth having, producing, and reproducing, from the ignorance thus engendered, restive ennui and frustration, making for yet more ignorance, ennui and frustration in each new generation, which ultimately turns the young, especially the young, to primitive solutions to resolve a primitive problem inherent in humankind when existence is reduced to baseness--that of day to day sustenance and the demonstration, against organized attempt at emasculation, of one's young manhood--, which causes murder rates in inner cities anywhere to flourish. It is obviously not one particular hangout where murders happen to abide for a time. Destroy one of those, up crops another, and another--or it moves to the streets. The ultimate source for rampant, systemic violence is poverty, not places or even people. And that this crusading Southern newspaper understood well, by bothering to look right outside its backdoor.

Parking Suggestions*

The legislative community committee of the Merchant's Association, lately charged with the duty of finding a solution for parking problems here, has a real job. It is a broad job, also a deep one, a high one; one with all three dimensions of great size and also perhaps a fourth dimension.

The Founding Fathers of Charlotte didn't foresee the automobile and so didn't give enough width to streets. It's not their fault. Perhaps some Founder with a prophetic vision vaguely imagined the horseless carriage, but even he couldn't have known there would be so many of them, all on the streets at one time. No Founding Father knew that everybody would want to park in front of the bank at the same time, 1:45 P.M., or in front of the theater at 8:45 P.M. The Founders could visualize Fourth Street, but not when it was full of automobiles and the luncheon-clubbers were swarming to the weekly session.

The parking problem is a hard one, all right, with such a dreadful lack of space, and sometimes we think the only thing to do is to start all over again and lay out the city anew. Either that or reinvent the automobile.

Other People's Money

One of the things the President has advised Congress to do to halt the decline in business and turn it the other way, is to make more credit available. This will be done in two ways: by direct RFC loans to business, chiefly very small business and very large business, such as the railroads; and by reducing the Reserve requirements of banks.

Coincidentally, another quasi branch of the Government, the Federal Reserve Board, has issued in routine a statement showing that the excess reserves of the nation's banks--that is, the amount they have to lend out to customers--are greater than at any time since reserve requirements were increased as a deflationary measure last May.

If the banks have money to lend and are not lending it, two conclusions are inescapable: (1), that they are not receiving applications for loans, or, (2), that such applications as they receive aren't any good. Which is to say that the trouble isn't lack of credit so much as it is lack of creditable borrowers, and that the banks are being induced, indirectly, to make loans which judgment, not lack of lendable funds, has caused them to turn down before.

Ah, well; maybe most of them will turn out all right.

Victory for Home-Owners*

If a crowd of home-owners had been in court this week when Dr. Virginia Humphrey won her suit to enjoin the building of a laundry next to her home on Dilworth Road, they would have raised a cheer, and been properly admonished by the judge to stow it. But never mind the judge, since we are dealing here with only a hypothetical disorder. The reality is that at last the principle has been laid down locally that people who buy restricted property have some rights. Heretofore those rights have been grossly disregarded.

It is inevitable in a city that has grown and is growing as fast as this one that the character of property will change. For that reason, restrictions occasionally become anachronistic and merely restrict property owners from getting full value or utility from their real estate. It is somewhat like perpetual endowments made in the last century to build and maintain watering troughs for horses. The endowments endure but the horses have long since disappeared.

A more sensible procedure would be for the City to enact a zoning law. This would supersede restrictions on areas whose character had changed, and keep out intruders from areas whose character had not changed. It would stop violations at their source--that is, at the time of making application for the building permits; and it would produce, in the long run, a more orderly, beautiful, planned city.

Just Another Drive

We were gratified when we saw by our paper Thursday that the Mecklenburg County Grand Jury had advised County Chairman Harkey that, "We find the number of murder cases is appalling, especially among the Negro race." Ah now, at last, we thought, something is going to be done about it.

But gratification, we confess flatly, fell to zero when we went on to discover that what the grand jury proposed to do about it was:

1--To vote special funds to investigate and close down the "dives," and in particular the "piccolo houses," which abound in the Negro districts.

2--To place Solicitor John Carpenter in charge of the "drive."

So far as Solicitor Carpenter goes, there is certainly nothing in the record to inspire the slightest confidence that he is going to do anything effective about the murder rate here. He has been Solicitor of the district for sixteen years already--and the office of Solicitor is charged particularly, we should think, with putting down the chief of all crimes. But in his term in office, the murder rate has not declined but gone steadily and alarmingly upward. Twice, during the period, the town has had the highest annual murder rate in the United States, and only last year it had a total of 37 murders.

And as for the "piccolo houses" and the "dives" generally--we aren't for a moment suggesting that they oughtn't to be got rid of. It is immensely probable that they are breeding grounds of murder, especially among the Negroes. But merely to suppress them is, we believe, entirely useless. They'll promptly spring back up under another guise. For such dives are, in their essence, simply the inevitable playgrounds of slums. So long as the slums exist, these "dives," under one name or another, will exist.

And if the County Commissioners really want to do something effective about them and about the murder rate, they cannot do better than by joining such funds as they can dispose of to Federal funds, for the purpose of slum clearance and improvement.

Japan Finds a Tartar

There seems to be no doubt left that the Chinese armies have inflicted a major defeat on the Japanese invaders in South Shantung province. Out of 50,000 Japanese soldiers engaged at Talerchwang, the Chinese claim to have killed 20,000. And foreign observers agree that they have killed at least as many as 7,000 and wounded 20,000 more--casualties of over 50 per cent. Moreover, the Japanese spokesman himself admits that the Japanese have been driven back from Talerchwang to Yisien.

The significance of the victory, however, is far greater than even the numbers killed and wounded indicate. This is the first major defeat Japanese armies have suffered in modern times. In terms of the morale of those armies and the Japanese nation, its possible effect is incalculable. For to those armies and to that nation "face" is everything. The tradition that Japanese armies died on the spot rather than retreat has been blasted, and by foemen held in contempt. Blasted, too, has been the notion that resistless destiny rode with those armies and that nation.

But what is perhaps even more significant than that is the fact that the success of guerrilla bands in breaking the supply lines of the Japanese armies is given primary credit for the victory. Those familiar with China have insisted all along that such tactics were China's best bet. And if the supply lines of Japan can be broken by guerrillas when she is still less than 300 miles from her base at Tsingtao, the chances that she can penetrate to the heart of China--as penetrate she must if she is to dominate the land--seem pretty slim.

After Licensing*

The plan of the State Highway Patrol to establish a testing ground here for examining applicants for automobile driver's license seems to be a realistic one so far as it goes. But, under the present State law, it would go only so far as drivers who have not hitherto been licensed. The overwhelming majority of people who drive motor cars in the state got them in the days when all they had do was to remember their names and the color of their eyes. And to make a testing ground of much account, it would be necessary for the Legislature to enact a law requiring everybody to make application all over again.

But not even that would really be enough to establish order on the highway and in the streets. It would, strictly enforced, eliminate that great body of drivers who either haven't even ever bothered to learn how to drive or who haven't the intelligence ever to learn properly to pilot machines so complex and dangerous as an automobile. But it would not touch the equally great group of those who, knowing perfectly well how to drive, habitually and flagrantly ignore the traffic laws in their driving. To get at these a law suspending license for a period upon conviction of, say, the third offense, would perhaps be a minimum requirement. But even that would be quite useless unless the present practice were reversed, and the police began actually to make arrests for violations of the traffic laws.


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