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Myra Tanner Weiss

“We Are Not Afraid,” Say Negro Couple
After KKK Cross Is Burned Before Home

(15 May 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 22, 1 June 1946, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

LOS ANGELES, May 15 – “I had already retired. It was close to midnight when my wife saw a sudden light and went to the window to investigate. She saw a flaming cross on our front lawn. She called to me and I knocked the cross down and put out the fire. It was a wooden cross, padded with rags and soaked with an inflammable oil.”

Thus, Mr. H.G. Hickerson today described to me the race-hating Ku Klux Klan-like threat to him and his wife on May 12 and their long two-year court fight for the right to live in a home of their own in a section labeled for “whites only.”

Mrs. Hickerson, mother of a girl, 20 years old, and a boy just out of high school, said she didn’t know who might have placed the cross there, “but whoever was guilty wanted to frighten us, but I wasn’t frightened a bit.”

I asked about her neighbors who have been trying to evict them.

“None of them appeared on the scene although the fire was very bright. As a matter of fact, even afterward, when the police were there and flashing their lights all over, and the place was crowded with newspaper people, none of the neighbors came over to see what all the commotion was about.”

While we were discussing the case, a young Chinese-American neighbor, Tom D. Amer, joined us. His family, also forced to fight in the courts to remain in their home, was visited just two days after they moved in by a Mr. Kroeger and two others, who warned the family to move or they would fight them in court. Young Tom said, “Just wait until my brother gets out of the navy. He’ll know how to fight them.”

“They aren’t going to frighten us out of our homes,” Mr. Hickerson agreed. “There’s more involved than just us. The whole question of restrictive covenants and all the conditions made by prejudice are at issue. We must not only fight through the courts, but we should also conduct a campaign to get legislation passed doing away with such things. People have been coming to my house and telephoning constantly offering to help. But somehow we’ve got to be organized so we can all work together. If they can get away with burning crosses on my front lawn, they can do it anywhere.”

I asked Mr. Hickerson what he thought about a labor defense organization which would combat vigilante or Klan terror and offer help to anyone who was threatened. “I haven’t thought much about that and I don’t know if it’s necessary now, but it soon will be if we don’t organize against them,” he said.

We discussed further the character of the campaign we must organize and then I left in order to visit one of the white neighbors who might possibly be “friendly,” a Mrs. Cline, who lived up the street away. She was busy cleaning house for the use of the election board in the coming primaries. She is an elderly woman and politely asked me in.

I told her I was anxious to learn whatever I could about the burning of the cross. “No, I don’t know anything about it except that someone told me that the Hickersons burned it themselves for cheap notoriety.” She wouldn’t tell me who had given her this absurd self-assault theory.

Mrs. Cline blandly assured me that all the people on that block were “very nice” and would never burn a cross. “Besides why would anyone want to burn a cross? It seems to me if I were to burn anything, it wouldn’t be a cross. It would be closer than that.” She had been pumped so full of “white supremacy” that she could utter words of race hate, even implying murder, in the same manner as she might appraise the weather. The only objection Mrs. Cline said she had to restrictive covenants was that they didn’t exclude the Mexicans too!

Two interviews: one with Mrs. Hickerson, a courageous woman ready to face all terror for her elementary right to live in her home, and so that others might have that right: the other with Mrs. Cline, a misguided representative of organized hate, who wants to keep all whose skins are not pale enough segregated and marked out for police brutality, slum conditions, and all the evils that go with a ghetto whether for the Jews in Europe or the Negroes in America.

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Last updated: 19 June 2021