Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Long Flight Of Jim Crow

This week marked the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riot.  Featured this week are photos of area activists coming together to use their platform to promote the BLM movement, especially Black LGBTQ and Trans lives.  And keeping with remembering our not-so-shining history, our resident historian takes a look at the long history of racial discrimination in America. Is there an end to it in sight?

The Long Flight of Jim Crow 
by Coast Watcher
photos by C.A. Matthews

Even the name Jim Crow is racist. The original Jim Crow was a black minstrel character found on the Victorian vaudeville circuit, but the term defines the collection of state and local statutes that legalized racial discrimination in the United States.

The history: 19th century

Beginning from 1865—immediately following the Civil War—these laws crept into the statute books as white legislators and their rich white sponsors sought to circumvent the Thirteenth Amendment. By enacting Jim Crow laws they aimed to marginalize black and colored people by denying them the right to vote, hold good jobs, live in decent housing, find an education or do anything else a pre-emancipation slave couldn’t do. Those who fought against the blatant discrimination often faced arrest, fines, jail sentences and death at the hands of lynch mobs.

By means of Black Codes, formerly enslaved people were restricted in how, where and when they could work, and for how much compensation. By creative use of legislature whites forced black and colored people into indentured servitude and even seized children for labor purposes.

For decades after the Civil War, former Confederate soldiers working as civic authorities, police officers and judges ensured the black population of the South would never rise above their former slave status. It became nearly impossible for legal representatives working on behalf of black people to win a court case with such opposition stacked against them.

The Jim Crow laws were designed to work in conjunction with labor camps where prisoners were treated like slaves. Black and colored offenders received longer sentences than their white counterparts. Because of the conditions in which these incarcerated individuals had to live and the appallingly hard work, they often didn’t live out their entire sentence.

About the only bright spots in the whole horrible saga were to be found in the big cities of the South. Greater populations tend to lead to greater freedoms under law. By the 1880s this had led to substantial numbers of black citizens moving to the cities where they would face less oppression. Unfortunately this migration led to a commensurate decrease in the very freedoms that had attracted them. White city dwellers began to feel threatened by the increasing black population of their communities and demanded the enactment of Jim Crow laws to restrict and control African Americans.

This rise in support for their racist measures enabled the white legislators to expand the Jim Crow laws throughout the South and to increase their harshness. Segregation became the way of life, with public transport waiting rooms, restrooms, water fountains, elevators, cemeteries and even amusement-park cashier windows being designated Black and Colored Only. It didn’t end there. Neighborhoods became African American only. Public swimming pools, hospitals, asylums, jails and residential homes also fell under this racist legislation. It was common for towns to set up signs banning African Americans the right of residence or even passage through the township limits.

In the field of education, the old edicts banning the teaching of black people to read and write resurfaced in a new, more oppressive form. Some states required separate textbooks for black and white students. New Orleans regulated prostitutes according to race. In the courtrooms of Atlanta, Georgia, African Americans were even given a separate Bible to whites upon which to place their hand upon and swear. Marriage and even cohabitation between races was outlawed.

This is not to say there wasn’t firm push-back against these increasingly harsh restrictions as we'll soon see.

The 20th Century

As the twentieth century progressed the oppression of African Americans began to be marked by increasing violence. Lynching incidents rose significantly in number and frequency. As they rose, so too did race riots. As the lethal Spanish Flu pandemic began to subside in 1919, twenty-five such riots occurred across the country. The scale of these uprisings led to the period earning the name the "Red Summer." One of the last incidents of that summer was not a race riot yet proved the deadliest of them all. Some two hundred African Americans died in and around the city of Elaine, Arkansas, following an all-out assault by armed white men afraid of a Communist insurrection by black workers. The final death toll is uncertain, as witnesses spoke of seeing black people taken by whites—including US army troops—off to undisclosed locations never to be seen again.

The 1920s saw a significant migration of educated black people into the North, which had its own Jim Crow-style laws. Some states required black citizens to own property before they could vote. Segregation had even infected the cities with black only neighborhoods and schools. The pervasive influence of segregation extended nationwide with the popular "Green Book" travel guides having a separate African Americans only issue listing places where they could stay, visit or find entertainment.

The Great Depression marked yet another upswing in lynchings. World War II created a kind of intermission because everyone was needed for the war effort, yet black veterans returning from the war were still met with discrimination and violence. Suburban developments both North and South were built with segregation in mind. Blacks found it difficult to impossible to find mortgages in some locations. The city of St. Louis, Missouri, was not alone in having an entire real estate industry dedicated to keeping black and white property owners in separate neighborhoods.

Jim Crow crashes and burns...

Inevitably the pendulum of history began to swing back the other way. In 1948 President Harry S. Truman ordered the integration of the US military. Before this date African American troops mostly saw service in labor battalions or as transport drivers. Increasing awareness of civil rights in the African American population led to increased focus on the right of blacks to vote. The Jim Crow laws began to erode, starting with the famous 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education, a landmark Supreme Court ruling for desegregation of schools across the country. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 which legally ended the segregation brought about by Jim Crow laws. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 stopped efforts to prevent minorities from voting, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 ended discrimination in the property market.

The 21st Century—Has anything truly changed?

Not much. If anything the rise of white supremacists under the Trump presidency has made matters worse. Police forces across the country are guilty of killing African Americans with little to zero provocation. Black Americans account for around 13% of the US population yet the percentage of those shot and killed is twice as high as that of white Americans. Black Lives Matter protests are frequently harassed by armed gangs of white supremacists, and sometimes with the full cooperation of the local police departments. Lynchings are back, with a number of black men killed recently in California and the Carolinas. Incarceration of African American citizens is at an all-time high as unscrupulous capitalists take advantage of the involuntary servitude clause of the Thirteenth Amendment to exploit their free labor in prison sweatshops.

In 2012 Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer. In August 2014 the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, led to days of rioting. This year the death on camera of George Floyd ignited protests worldwide. In Louisville, Kentucky, Breonna Taylor was shot dead by cops while asleep in her own home. Louisville business owner David McAtee was shot dead by officers from that same police department during a protest over Breonna Taylor’s death. Many others have died at the hands of the police before and since simply for the crime of not being white.

Perhaps things are finally changing as the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement grows. Perhaps white liberals are getting involved because it’s "fashionable." In any case, the country is now addressing the blatant discrimination against those who happen to have a darker skin color. Statues of well known racists are toppling across the world. 

With Trump’s popularity declining—poll numbers show his support dwindling daily even in his heartland states—it looks like the GOP may lose control of the White House and Senate come November. However, I very much doubt Joe Biden will be much better as president in protecting the civil liberties of persons of color. This is the man who helped to create the Patriot Act and supported segregation in Delaware when he served as their senator, after all. Regardless of the duopolist political party sitting in the White House, the BLM movement has gathered such a pace that it appears nothing can stop it. It's high time to bury all the legislation of Jim Crow and his bastard children, too.

BIO: Coast Watcher studies history and hates to see it repeat itself over and over again in violent and oppressive cycles. Now is the time for us to fight free from this destructive pattern. Black Lives Matter!




Related Articles:

Finally Healing the Wounds of Jim Crow

Black Lives Matter Want To End Police Brutality. History Suggests It Will Go Much Further

Trump Made Racist Joke in a Phoenix Megachurch and the Crowd Went Wild

3 North Carolina Police Officers Fired Over Racist Remarks

Colorado Governor Appoints Special Prosecutor to Reopen Probe of Young Black Man Killed in Police Custody

This introverted 23-year-old was just walking home when he was murdered for being Black. Charge these killer cops, now!
Sign Now

"I'm an introvert. I'm just different. That's all. I'm so sorry. I have no gun. I don't do that stuff... You all are phenomenal. You are beautiful. And I love you. Try to forgive me. I am a mood Gemini. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Ow, that really hurt. You all are very strong."
Those are the final words of young Elijah McClain, a Black massage therapist who loved to play the violin for lonely shelter cats to calm them down. After going out to buy his brother an iced tea, he was walking home and listening to music when someone called the police to report "suspicious behavior" because they couldn't see his face. Elijah had anemia, so he often felt cold and wore many layers and a mask to stay warm. When three police officers arrived, they didn't even wait for him to take his headphones out of his ears before they pounced, locking him in a chokehold.
As he sobbed and repeatedly vomited, authorities injected the 23-year-old with twice the amount of ketamine needed to subdue someone as small as him. He suffered two heart attacks, and by the time he arrived at a nearby hospital, he was brain dead. Police clearly don't want us to know about this. They claim that all three of their body cameras mysterious fell off, but audio recorded at the scene captured one officer telling another, "move your [body] camera, dude." To this day, not one of these cops have been fired or charged with murder. All three are still out patrolling the streets of Aurora, Colorado, even though they have blood on their hands. Sign the petition to demand justice for Elijah!
Thank you for all that you do,
Miranda B.
The Care2 Petitions Team
P.S. Police from killed him just for wearing a mask while Black, even as he forgave and praised them. Demand that these sadistic murderers finally face real justice now!

From UltraViolet:

Imagine a world where the website that's home to some of the "most violently racist content" on the Internet bans hate speech.1

It may sound unbelievable, but together we can make it happen.
Reddit has long harbored white nationalists, extreme misogynists, the alt-right, and other hate groups. But in this moment of reckoning on systemic racism and hate, millions of Reddit users, tech leaders, and UltraViolet members have come together to say it's time for Reddit to be on the right side of history. Right now, the COO of Reddit is speaking on a virtual panel about the importance of community. If Reddit truly wants to build community, it must ban hate speech against protected groups, ban hateful users and moderators, hire more women and people of color, and hire paid community managers.

Can you take a moment to send a tweet to tell Reddit that if it wants to build community, it must ban hate speech?

Send a tweet now: Reddit must ban racism and hate speech--and hire more women and people of color.
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Reddit has shown that it will listen to complaints about hateful pages on its site, and together we can push Reddit to act now. Reddit even shut down one so-called men's rights group for inciting violence against women after a petition and negative publicity. By showing public support for the demands of Reddit community members, we can force Reddit to take action and stop the spread of white male supremacy online.

As long as Reddit continues to allow racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic groups to have a home on its website, it is complicit in promoting violence and hate.

Send a tweet to demand that Reddit ban racism, sexism, and other hate speech on its platform.

Thanks for speaking out!
--Shaunna, Kat, Kathy, Anathea, Sonja, Melody, Lindsay, Pam, Maria, Kimberly, Katie, and Elisa, the UltraViolet team
1. Reddit Is Finally Facing Its Legacy of Racism, The Atlantic, June 12, 2020

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