The Charlotte News

Saturday, August 16, 1941


Site Ed. Note: In Person County, the page today tell us, a near-lynching was averted by two methods, swift retaliatory action against the mob by the Sheriff and his men using teargas, and some African-American men from a nearby Civilian Conservation Corps camp rushing into the fray with baseball bats and sticks against mob gunfire.

Tragedy was avoided; no one was killed.

The mob of Basses had thrown rocks and bottles at the Sheriff's windows. And, of course, as we have heard, baseball is the only sport where a black man can shake a stick at a white man and receive cheers for it.

Too bad the same mentality did not prevail 23 years later in Philadelphia, Mississippi. On that occasion, the old facilitator of mob violence raised its Ianus-faces played in offer of its traditional role with a vengeance: not only by the Sheriff turning the men over to the mob but by the Sheriff's deputy being a part of the mob itself, even if the mob formed somewhere down the road from the jailhouse.

We could say of course that part of the problem, insofar as the Person County incident, was that W. J. Cash and his knowing pen full of rueful irony and mirrored language was no longer there to keep the mobs from forming in the first instance around the by-ways of North Carolina and upper South Carolina, the greatest readership of The News. No other writer of those times had that kind of guts--to run the risk of being misunderstood by those with whom he agreed, and simultaneously running the risk of incurring the wrath of the rope to his own neck from those whom he sought to disenchant from their finely brainwashed routine into which most of them obtained by birthright, the only feeling of superiority they could achieve for themselves, a rather pitiful lot, when boiled to their essence.

But, it is an unprovable thesis. And so we won't make the argument.

Yet, we cannot help but think that those who attack the W.J. Cashes of the world for usage of colorful language are the racists in fact, those who want the lynch mobs to form, who want the violence against the hapless prisoner, for their own political hay, so that they might pompously stand on the hustings and shout down racism, without a whit of true emotion evident, merely for their own self-aggrandizement.

For that is not how the war on racism was won; it was not the language of Martin Luther King, for instance, to put down the voice of irony. Indeed, Reverend King used that irony, himself, on many occasions.

Nor is it how it is still being won when it is. The methods of the mob require a tried and true anodyne to defeat and disperse them. And not only does that include the method of W. J. Cash, but it is the sine qua non, the catalyst for that anodyne. Leave it out, and the rest is so much shouting in the wind, so much high-sounding rhetoric to the choir, falling on deaf ears within the portion of the community which needs to hear and understand the most. It was that latter segment of the community which Cash sought to reach, sometimes a very dangerous proposition, but one which must be undertaken if change is to occur in any more than superficial, transitory modalities.

A symptom of the disease of racism is not the bare use of the word "nigger", or "jiggerboo", or "honky", or any other such racially loaded word; it is rather the context of the usage, the charge which the word is given by the speaker or writer. The word itself is inert.

Like any word, it has no power of itself. Provide any single word that sort of incantatory power and that word itself becomes a god or a devil, a god to some, a devil to others, just as the word "god" may be perceived--as an incantation, a curse. No single word should be infused with that kind of religio-spiritual meaning, for that only gives power to the racists who do employ such words for racial motives, or the haters who employ any form of hate speech to their ends of conquering by division. Hitler often invoked the word "God" in his speeches, and in sympathetic context, but which meant, of course, all of nothing more than the nihilism he generally espoused by action.

The electromotive force, the voltage if you will, behind a single word comes from its usage within a sentence, and the placement of the sentence within the context of its surrounding text or verbiage, assuming of course we are speaking of only bare speech. If coupled with action, such as the formation of the mob outside the jail in Roxboro in Person County, then obviously the bare utterance of the word itself from within the mob produces a racially charged epithet, carrying with it all the voltage inherent in centuries of racism. But in that instance, its attendant voltage is not resultant from the usage of the word, or because of the word itself, but rather the consequence of the context of action in which the word is uttered.

Irony, as a conductor for the word, while not a null conductor, discharges the voltage behind it, renders it discharged of its violence, causes it not only to lose its force but to prove a negative force resistant to the voltage, and overcoming its flow. Those who try to label that irony racism are racists and desire racism to continue unabated, increased, baited.

"Silk in S.C.?" tells of the attempted revival of the silk worm in South Carolina as was sought during the colonial days for a time. A necessary concomitant for the worm was its feeding ground, the mulberry tree, upon whose branches sprouted the leafy meals for the crawling spinner. The piece points out, however, that the industry never got going in the United States because of the labor intensive task of spinning the thread from the cocoon onto cones to produce the yarn. Cotton and tobacco proved a vastly more profitable enterprise.

The piece goes on to echo further offense at Carson McCullers's recent statement regarding the peasants of the South, and suggests that, unlike Japan, there was an insufficient peasant class in South Carolina to produce such thread for the making of the yarn, at least in any profitable enterprise, even under emergent war conditions. Besides, it reminds, nylon and rayon were quickly being developed in the labs as silk substitutes, the ersatz for the ladies' legs. And, of course, as to the latter, such was the case. As to the former, we don't know. The worm never got going in its turn in South Carolina. Yet, the yarn did.

But, the fact remains that among the mulberry tree's silken chains, it is said that its white fruit changed by rubefaction to its eventual color by deign of a tuba's traction of the blood flowing fuller o'er from the lovers Pyramus and Thisbe's muller shore, a Luba's fraction, the same who talked through the chink in the wall of loam and lime and hair, gris be, at doler door of Ninny's tomb, where the dastardly lion was thought by Pyramus to have devoured his Thisbe, swooned, and with her, her garter. But 'tweren't so, unbeknownst to the lovers, woe, who too late discovered the folly of the felly which did part her, and thus lovers' part into the arter by token of the dagger stuck to the pap of Pyramus, caught in the trap of Lear y muss atop the wall of chalk and all, over by Dover, under the down, of whom rewound the upside sound, orchestrating to the blind the signs of peasant-kind, yet not poor Tom, being thus behung, was treble-trampled o'er by a sinking floor. In the stable, the stinking fable hatched itself amid the lore's lingering green-finger of Charter.

We look pretty young, but we're just backdated...where they drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca-Cola.

Alas, poor Dowlas, filthy Dowerless, stringy Dowless, they have made Boulters of ye, as that of the fowlless, filthy foulless, stingy, steamy foolless lay's calve o' Cade colters' Tevye.

Oh, by the way, Bob's fourth wife was a Ziegfield Follies girl.

And, also, we neglected to mention that Missus McLean's friendly intention was also sprocked to Alice L's mirrored rose, where everything shows. She was the daughter of TR's outed flame, have no doubt or shame, see the paper's route to fame, not a pouter's game, 'twas a hallowed dame to ev'ry bow that came, and she was e'en in Dick's final lodged and read prose...

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