Tags: African Americans, American Education, American History, bigotry, black, black churches, current-events, Esso Gas Stations, ethnicity, European Americans, Jacinda Townson, Negro Urban League, Paula Wynter, Prejudice, race, Smithsonian, St. Louis Black Pages Business Directory, The Green Book, Victor H. Green
Today many Americans take their freedoms, liberties and privileges for granted because seldom are they challenged. One of the freedoms we all enjoy today is traveling all over the country seeing and experiencing the majesty of America the beautiful. A recent publication by the Smithsonian, and writer Jacinda Townsend, entitled “Driving While Black”( April 2016) tells of the challenging experiences encountered by African Americans before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the efforts of one man to help relieve some of the dangers.
Townsend states that “Driving interstate distances to unfamiliar locales, black motorists ran into institutional racism in a number of pernicious forms, from hotels and restaurants that refused to accommodate them to hostile ‘sundown towns’ where posted signs warned people of color that they were banned after nightfall.”The fabric of ethnic bigotry increased after the Civil War because African Americans through their quest to become American citizens with all rights and privileges created a problem for European Americans could not see them as social equals. Therefore, in whatever manner African Americans could be deprived of liberties and freedoms, many European Americans invented and promoted these challenges.
As one might expect, African Americans traveling by automobile during segregation presented many problems. For example, some gas stations would not sell gasoline to African American customers and certainly would not allow them use of the restrooms. In some cases, the stations would sell the gasoline to African Americans, but at a higher price than the price at the pump. Because segregation was sanctioned by the government, no recourse was available to the African Americans; they were on their own. On long trips where they knew purchasing gasoline might be a problem, taking along an extra can of gas was a necessity.
Many African Americans taking long trips had the challenge of finding sleeping accommodations because the hotels or motels would not accept them. Simply traveling at night presented some problems. Townsend notes one experience of Paula Wynter, a young girl traveling with her parents in the 1950’s: “In North Carolina, her family hid in their Buick after a local sheriff passed them, made a U-turn and gave chase. Wynter’s father, Richard Irby, switched off his headlights and parked under a tree. ‘We sat until the sun came up.’ She says. ‘We saw his lights pass back and forth. My sister was crying; my mother was hysterical.’” The cover of darkness protected evil-doing bigots from getting caught from practicing their deeds against African Americans.
Two things African Americans knew to take with them when traveling by either car or bus and train—food and drink. Why? Because in most restaurants they would not be served—even one-room bus stops would not serve them. One practice that was common throughout the South and other areas of the country focused on African Americans traveling by bus. When the bus stopped for a meal break, the European Americans could go inside the establishment and order their food. The African Americans had to go around to a window in the back of the place building and place their order. However, they were forced to pay for their food at the time of placing the order. Because of ethnic bigotry in society, the European American had their orders completed first, so they had a chance to eat while seated in the establishment. Once the European Americans were served, then the orders of the African Americans were started. However, the bus drivers were only concerned that the European Americans were fed, so after their meal, thy returned to the bus ready to continue their trip. The bus driver would order all passengers on the bus at that time. The African Americans who had paid for their food were forced to leave without receiving any food and were refused their right to have their money refunded. So, they continued their trip hungry and with a money deficit for their troubles.
Things began to change for many of the African American travelers in 1937, according to the article, when an African American visionary entrepreneur, “Victor H. Green, a 44-year-old black postal carrier in Harlem, relied on his own experiences and on recommendations from black members of his postal union for the inaugural guide bearing his name, The Negro Motorist Green-Book.” At first, the 15-page book covered “the New York metropolitan area, listing establishments that welcomed blacks.” The book “created a safety net. If a person could travel by car—and those who could, did—they would feel more in control of their destiny.”For the first time, families could plan their road travel knowing that some of their problems would be addressed using the information in The Green Book.
Townsend notes that “The Green Book final edition, in 1966-67, filled 99 pages and embraced the entire nation and even some international cities. The guide pointed black travelers to places including hotels, restaurants, beauty parlors, nightclubs, golf courses and state parks.”More importantly for the traveler, Green’s book included businesses such as service stations, garages, and Road Houses. Although desegregation provided greater opportunities for African Americans to travel, the dangers and challenges of the road did not simply disappear.
Finally, the article notes that “The Green Book was indispensable to black-owned businesses. For historians, says Smithsonian curator Joanne Hyppolite, the listings offer a record of the ‘rise of the black middle class, and in particular, of the entrepreneurship of black women.’”
Green’s book met a need for the African American traveler during the difficult period of segregation. Whether a direct influence or not, a publication that follows a similar philosophy but focuses on African American businesses is The Black Pages, for the metropolitan of St. Louis, Missouri. The expressed purpose of this publication is as stated:
St. Louis Black Pages Business Directory: For 25 years, the Black Pages Business Directory and The Transformational Agenda Magazine has served as an effective advertising vehicle for small-mid-sized businesses, non-profit organizations, and corporations across the St. Louis Metro area who have a vested interest in letting the African American community know that they’re in business and that they respect and appreciate their patronage. This highly effective advertising vehicle is penetrating a $4.86 billion market via 100,000 print copies, and engaging internet and mobile editions (for iPhone and Android).” www.black–pages.com/tag/st-loui
The Green Book sold its first edition for twenty-five cents; its final edition sold for $1. We note in the article that “At the height of its circulation, Green printed 20,000 books annually, which were sold at black churches, the Negro Urban League and Esso gas stations.”
Tags: African Americans, American Education, American History, bigotry, Civil Rights, criminal justice system, current-events, ethnicity, European Americans, Police, police lack of respect for minority citizens, Police training, Police videos, Prejudice, skin complexion
For the past year America has witnessed the spectacle of young, mostly male, unarmed, people of color being killed by law enforcement agents. In all instances the use of deadly force by the officers was employed when other options were available and appropriate. The result of the actions by the law enforcers in these deaths was little or no repercussions for the law officers; in essence, the victims were responsible for their deaths. In most of these cases when video was available and compared with the officers’ written reports of the incidents, they did not correspond. The videos told different stories from the ones in the official reports. Never-the-less, the outcome of these events showed the public that justice and fairness does not look the same when law enforcement views it alongside society in general. What seems justified in the eyes of the law does not reflect fairness and justice to many Americans in general, and to people of color in particular.
Two things can be ascertained from the experiences involving the deaths of people of color at the hands of European American and other law enforcement officers: 1. the present system of jurisprudence is corrupt in dispensing justice to people of color; and 2, the system must be replaced, not revised or re-developed. The reason for these facts can be observed in the reactions of the public and the citizens directly involved with the system. Americans have been conditioned to accept the words and actions of the law enforcement agents without question because of the trust that has been placed in their hands. In the past, records concerning citizens’ deaths were not kept to any appreciable degree by law enforcement agencies and so that information relative to the number of African Americans and other people of color were not available to the public. Furthermore, the public did not seem concerned regarding those deaths because of the mental social conditioning. However, when videos of officer shootings became available to the media and were aired, people began to pay closer attention to and take an interest in what was being presented.
The corruption of the justice system relative to the prosecution of officers can be seen in the method in which the cases are handled. The entire process is handled in the law enforcement community; no one from outside or from an independent agency plays a role in assessing the criminal concerns of the officers. The only possible group of people to play any role in hearing accusations against an officer is a Grand Jury. Unfortunately, the only person to appear before the Grand Jury is a Prosecutor. Since the Prosecutor works closely with the law enforcement agencies which might include many of the officers in question, his or her perspective is generally skewed towards helping the officers. The results, as we have seen, favor no charges being brought against the officers. Because of society’s conditioning of not questioning the findings of an officer-involved proceeding, little thought is given to the fairness and justice of the cases until recently.
We are compelled to question the system of justice when day after day we see and hear contradictory information relative to the deaths of a people of color and no one, except the victim, is held responsible for a crime. A question comes to mind when discussing the occurrence of a European American officer killing a person of color on a force that includes officers that are also people of color. Why do we not hear or see officers of color involved in the killing of European American citizens? If all the law enforcement officers experience the same or similar training, why is it that European Americans are the primary killers of people of color, yet officers of color rarely, if ever kill a European American? One response focuses on the culture of the law enforcement community and its corruption. The nature of the corruption can be seen in the silent code of group unity—backing one another right or wrong. The group identity represents a serious challenge to justice and fairness. What most Americans do not realize or understand is that the ethnic bigotry that sees African Americans as inferior beings and of little social value is normal for European Americans; that bias is also part of their social conditioning. When a European American becomes a member of the law enforcement group, that bigotry is not checked at the door and left out. The fact that society conditions European Americans to see African Americans and dangerous, evil, threatening, etc…, helps to fuel the attitude of these officers not only when they join the group but also when they come into contact with African Americans and other people of color. No question remains about the corruption of the system; we only need to check the records.
The system of social injustice and unfairness exhibited primarily by law enforcement agencies cannot be fought or defeated using the tools of the system. The system must be replaced in order for justice to be available to all citizens of America. Time and again the Federal Government has stepped into the workings of a police department in one or two large cities when a lack of justice and fairness has been documented. A study is usually conducted and after a period of time, all parties gather and review the findings of the study. Certain requirement for change in everything from policies to procedures to training etc…is made and a time frame is given to accomplish these objectives. When we look at the history of success involving these experiences, we realize that little has changed—a new suit might appear on the officer, but the undergarments are the same as before.
What has to change is the culture of bigotry that has long been part of the American psyche, generally without many Americans realizing it. When a European American sees an African American or another person of color and not see that person as a social equal, class concerns aside, that is called bigotry or social conditioning. No amount of training can remove that bigotry; it has to be replaced through education. The law enforcement agencies represent only a part of the cultural structure that promotes, sustains, and defends bigotry. Change is slowly taking place now through the efforts of civil-minded people and groups who recognize that America is not the kind of society they want to live in or have their children and grandchildren inherit. So, they must continue to PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST in order to call attention to the injustices being committed. They must continue to PROTEST, PROTEST, and PROTEST in order to make the changes that are needed to replace the system. They must PROTEST, PROTEST, and PROTEST until the changes are made. The American Revolution began as a protest, and we see what that got us—Freedom.
Tags: African Americans, American History, black, Brigette Gaberiel, Caucasians, English, ethnic americans, ethnicity, European Americans, lesser whites, Pilgrims, political correctness, Prejudice, skin color, white
The following statement provided an opportunity to make clear some common misinformation:
We must come together as a nation. We must throw political correctness in the garbage where it belongs and start speaking the truth! I am sick and tired of everybody walking around being so offended. We need to start offending people. I am sick and tired of “I am an African-American, I am an Italian-American, I am a Lebanese-American”. We are nothing but Americans!” –Brigette Gabriel, Watchmen on the Wall Conference 2015-http://rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/Gabriel_Brigitte
On the surface the statement above reads like someone is deeply concerned about the bigotry and insensitivity relative to ethnic Americans. However, on closer scrutiny we discover the opposite intent of what is said because of the apparently vague generalities. Let us be specific in our concerns. Who are the “we” in the first sentence and why are “we” not together? The next sentence does nothing to identify or to make clear the “we” questions, but states that political correctness must be thrown into the garbage. Why? In addition, the truth must start to be spoken. What truth? Before we go further in our discussion we realize that the above statements reads like bumper stickers of the past: “America, Love it, or Leave it!” Like the bumper sticker, society does not know who is making the statement and to whom. To most Americans, that bumper sticker statement would be totally Un-American, because in our democratic form of government, when we do not like something that is unreasonable, we work to change it, not run from it.
Gabriel’s reference to political correctness sounds more like a “dog whistle” than a legitimate complaint about something of significance. Most instances of political correctness seek to make more accurate and pertinent some expression or practice. An example of political correctness involves changing the label “Garbage Man” to “ Sanitation Worker” and in so doing remove the denigrating reference to garbage and the gender designation of man. Why would anyone be against that kind of correctness? For certain some of the changes or suggested changes can appear hyperbolic and unreasonable, but to discount all political correctness would be fool-hardy. How does one distinguish “the truth” in political correctness without examining the objective in making the change and then checking for its validity and accuracy? Again, the question must be asked: Whose truth?
The next sentence contains sentiments of Gabriel being “sick and tired” of other people walking around being offended. She has every right to feel whatever she is capable of feeling, but that freedom does not include making other people conform to her feelings. She has no control of the feelings of other people, but if so concerned about why they feel offended, might inquire of them. Maybe they are justified in feeling offended. Her statement reflects a degree of arrogance when she describes her dislike of other people’s expressions of offence as if they are supposed to please her.
Gabriel’s next statement sounds dictatorial and aggressive towards people who offend her and the “We” she has yet to define. What would be the objective in deliberately offending people? Americans have 1st Amendment rights that are protected by the Constitution, so if their expressions and/or behavior does no physical or mental harm to anyone, then they can continue exercising their right, whether Gabriel like it or not. The suggestion of wanting to offend someone for some unknown reasons or for using political correctness seems un-American and un-democratic.
In her next sentence, Gabriel expresses again her feelings of “sick and tired” of what she apparently considers political correctness: “I am an African-American, I am an Italian-American, I am a Lebanese-American”. This statement shows a total lack of or acceptance of American history in that Gabriel does not understand the difference between ethnic identity and cultural identity and how it has played out in America since before the Mayflower. Although the pilgrims brought their prejudices with the to America, those prejudices were not based on ethnicity, but skin color—red for Indians, black for Africans, and white for Europeans. Not until the founding fathers invented two races—one black, one white, did the need for identity become important.
The ruling Anglo-Saxon class of early Americans wanted to control society in order to protect themselves and their possessions, so they invented two races base on skin color followed with what they promoted as natural characteristics. For the white race the concept of total supremacy over all non-white people was offered as a God-given right. For Africans/African Americans the concept was one of inferiority in every respect, especially, intelligence. These two concepts were two sides of the same coin; one does not exist without the other. Everything was fine for a while because all the social, political, religious, legal and educational institutions were controlled by the Anglo-Saxons.
In the early 1920’s the ruling class realized that too many lesser whites were immigrating to America, so they slowed European immigration down in some regards, and put a stop to it relative to people of color—see Johnson-Reed bill. The lesser whites—including Irish, Italians, Slavs, Poles, Jews, Germans and others were placed under the rubric of Caucasian, a term coined just prior to 1800. This term Caucasian became identified with white and elevated the lesser whites relative to privilege, and prestige. The significance of this elevation for the lesser whites, which is important to Gabriel’s complaint, is that the European immigrants who could change their identity from its ethnic origin to white, did so. Being white was more important and valuable than being Italian-American. Unfortunately, the shift from ethnic identity to white did nothing positive for African Americans; it, in fact, produced more bigots who identified with their new social group.
All Americans have two identities, one ethnic, and one cultural. The ethnic identity is based on ancestry and geography and cannot be changed. Our cultural identity is of our own choosing. For example, if a female child is born to French parents in France, then both her identities will be French. However, if as an adult she decides to move to England, and become an English citizen, then her cultural identity changes to English. She becomes a French-English citizen or just English. The case with African Americans is different because the African captives who were enslaved in America had their identities taken away from them and replaced with terms like Negro, black, colored etc. So, the term African American is not an example of political correctness, but a re-establishment of both former and current identities.
European Americans or whites can select the time and place to use their ethnic identity; for many, they only know white or Caucasian. Control of African Americans and some lesser Americans is still in effect today because race still has social value. We would welcome the day when all Americans can truthfully say that we are all Americans and be politically correct.