J.R. Johnson

Save Us from These Noble “Friends of the Negro”

(3 May 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 18, 3 May 1943, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for MIA.

The Fair Employment Practices Committee has been in the news recently. After having had the run-around from Roosevelt to McNutt and from McNutt into the pigeonhole, Alderman Dickerson of Chicago has announced forthcoming sessions of the committee and claims that he will go ahead, come what may. It is a good move, or, to be more precise, a brave gesture.

But we have had braver gestures before, notably from one Philip Randolph, who announced and organized a March on Washington, only to turn tail and run as soon as Roosevelt shook the whip at him. The Negroes who have been fooled by Randolph will hardly be fooled again by Dickerson. What is required is mass action, not waiting on people like Walter White, Randolph and Dickerson.

What we wish to draw attention to here is the fact that Dickerson is not the chairman of the committee. The chairman is Mark Ethridge, a Southern white man, publisher of the Louisville Courier-Journal and a man who for years masqueraded as a “friend” of the Negro. He is the chief editorial writer of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph and was praised frequently by The Nation, liberal New York weekly, as a determined defender of Negro rights in the South.

With this great reputation, St. Mark was appointed chairman of the FEPC. But the Negroes wanted their rights, and said so, whereupon Mark turned nasty and proclaimed that the South had no intention of lowering its barriers against the Negroes. He has since ceased to function, and his fakery is completely exposed.

Brother Virginius

To be bracketed with Mark is Virginius Dabney, another editorial writer in the South, and a great preacher of “fairer and saner treatment of our Negro citizens!” But Dabney’s attitude toward Negroes is the same as that of the rich toward the poor: they will do everything for them except get off their backs.

Dabney has recently been writing on the Negro’s struggle for democratic rights. He portrays the notorious Representative Rankin. Rankin, he says, is “notorious,” he is “alarmist.” Rankin says that communist agitators “are trying to pump Negro or Japanese blood into the veins of our wounded white boys regardless of the dire effect it might have on them or their children.” In other words, according to Dabney, Rankin is a Hitlerite.

In Rankin’s district, the Rev. James Arthur Parsons, a Negro, decided to run against Rankin for Congress. This in the year 1942, in the second year AD, which you may translate as the year of the great American war for Democracy. Parsons had to fly from Mississippi; in one week there were three lynchings in Mississippi, and Parsons abandoned his candidature. Thus endeth the first lesson.

Dabney’s “Logic”

Dabney relates this shameful episode and then comments: “It is all very well to argue that Rankin is a tub-thumping demagogue of the first water; that this is a democracy; that a black man has as much right, under the Constitution, to aspire to Congress as a white man; and that if white Mississippians don’t know that Negroes are citizens, it is high time they were taught the facts of life.”

But, Dabney goes on: “Such an argument is logical if one wishes to ignore all the human factors involved, but those factors cannot be ignored.” This hypocritical self-exposed scoundrel wants the Negro’s rights ignored, the Constitution ignored, the claim that America is fighting for democracy ignored. All that he does not want ignored are the prejudices of some white Mississippians, and Rankin’s determination to use those prejudices to remain a congressman.

These two, St. Mark and Brother Virginius, have exposed themselves for what they are: Negro-baiters and Negro-haters, using sweet words and offering tidbits in order to keep the Negro where he is. Let us be on guard against all such. They are all around us, in white skins and in black, preaching submission, acquiescence, Uncle Tomism, under the guise of friendship for the Negro and sweet reason.

Out with them from the ranks of the Negro struggle. Let them stay where they belong: in the ranks of the capitalist exploiters. It is the duty of all not only to struggle for the democratic rights of the Negro, but to keep a vigilant eye and a sharp tongue ready to detect and denounce all these wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Last updated on 24 May 2015