Paul R. Lehman,The phrases: “black people” and “white people” contribute to the system of ethnic bigotryMarch 3, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Indian, American Racism, Bible, Bill Nye Undeniable, black inferiority, blacks, democracy, discrimination, DNA, Dorothy Roberts, entitlements, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, freedom of speech, Human Genome, identity, justice, minority, PBS NEWSHOUR, Prejudice, President Obama, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, U. S. Census, University of Penn., white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
Tags: "black people", "white people", African American, American History, bigotry, Bill Nye, black, Confronting Myths, current-events, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, ethnic identity, ethnicity, European Americans, language, minorities, Negro, Oriental, Prejudice, President Obama, Prof. Dorothy Roberts, race, Race in America, Sarah Tishkoff, skin color, skin complexion, U of Penn, white
So, what is wrong with saying “black people” and “white people” as part of our daily language usage? The answer does not include a right or wrong response, but one of understanding the significance of those phrases. Both phrases make references to the concept of race by color which is a social invention, not a biological fact. The phrase “black people” is not the same as “African American people” nor is “white people” the same as “European American people”; they are not interchangeable. However, with each use of these phrases the system of European American (white) supremacy and African American (black) inferiority is maintained, supported and promoted. When people of note use those phrases, their usage gives the impression that the phrases are acceptable in our general speech.
We need to understand and acknowledge a fact of life: races of black people and white people do not exist on the planet. According to noted scientist Bill Nye, “Any differences we traditionally associate with race are a product of our need for vitamin D and our relationship to the Sun. Just a few clusters of genes control skin color; …and they are tiny compared to the total human genome.”He continued by noting that “We all descended from the same African ancestors, with little genetic separation from each other. The different colors or tones of skin are the result of an evolutionary response to ultraviolet light in local environments.”(Undeniable, p. 254-55)
Americans have been conditioned to view themselves and others as different through the spectrum of color when information to the contrary has always been present. Scientist, Neil de Grasse Tyson, was once asked the question “what are human beings”? He answered that we are all made of stardust. Before we take that response as a joke, remember what the Bible and other sacred books said of human creation: mankind was created from the dirt and clay. This information agrees with Neil de Grasse Tyson in principle but is emphatic in the Book of Common Prayer in the statement:”Ashes to ashes dust to dust” usually associated with the burial of humans. In any event, the skin color of a human being does not give favor or preferences to any shade or tone because as Nye stated: “Everybody has brown skin tinted by the pigment melanin. Some people have light brown skin. Some people have dark brown skin. But we all are brown, brown, brown. (Nye, p.255)
Because the system of ethnic bigotry is based on skin color, each reference to skin color reinforces the concept of European American (white) supremacy. However, the reference to black people and white people as racial identities have created problems for many years and can no longer be controlled. In an interview with two scientists discussing the issue of race in their works, Sarah Tishkoff noted that “We know people don’t group according to so-called races based purely on genetic data. Whenever the topic comes up, we have to address, how are we going to define race? I have never ever seen anybody come to a consensus at any of these human genetic meetings.”
A response was given by Dorothy Roberts: “That’s because race is based on cultural, legal, social and political determinations, and those groupings have changed over time. As a social scientist, looking at biologists treating these groupings as if they were determined by innate genetic distinctions, I’m dumbfounded. There’s so much evidence that they’re invented categories. How you can say this is a biological race is just absurd. It’s absurd. It violates the scientific evidence about human beings.” (https://africana.sas.upenn.edu)
So, confusion continues with the constant use of identities based on skin color in medical research as well as all other social areas.
Since we know that biological races are a false social concept, our continued usage of terms that underscore it’s existence only serve to maintain and promote ethnic separation and bigotry. The fact that the term “racism” continues to be used indicates a number of concerns; one, some people using the term are innocent or ignorant of its direct relationship to maintaining the system of ethnic bigotry; two, some people using the term are stupid and are simply following the conventions of a bigoted society; three, some people using the term are simply bigots and are well aware of its support of the system of ethnic supremacy and want to promote it; some people using the term know its social significance relative to the system, but are seemingly not fully informed or are not concerned with its impact on society.
While the phrases “black people” and “white people” are the primary focus of this text, other phrases serve nearly the same function of maintaining and promoting the system of bigotry. For example, people who identify themselves as bi-racial or mixed race actually lend support to the system of ethnic bigotry because by using those phrases they are underscoring their acceptance of the false concept of racial superiority of so-called white people. Much of the problem comes from the language used by the inventors of the system with American society not being aware of the system, just its effects. A system of bigotry cannot be replaced if knowledge of its presence is not known. Through the language, the effects of the system of bigotry could be very apparent while the system itself can go undetected, which is largely the case in America today.
The need for awareness of language was the focus and objective of House Resolution 4238, which amended two federal acts dealing with insensitive and/or outdated language. For decades the term “minorities” used in federal language referred to people of color: Negro, Puerto Rican, American Indian, Eskimo, Oriental, etc.”President Obama signed the new bill that changed the language to “Asian American, Native Hawaiian, a Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, Puerto, Native American, or an Alaska Native.”(Obama signs bill eliminating ‘Negro,’ ‘Oriental’ from federal laws, PBS NEWSHOUR, 5/22/2016) Rather than being lumped into a group called “minorities” each ethnic group now has the opportunity to use it own ancestral or cultural identity which reflects personal self-worth and social value.
When phrases like “black people” and “white people” are used, they lack specificity because no one group of people on the planet represents either a black or white race. Their use only adds to the support of the system of bigotry. Confusion exists when those phrases are used because the reference is unclear relative to a skin color or a vague concept of a culture. So, if we are serious about replacing the system of bigotry, we can begin by using the appropriate language. Truth to the word!
Tags: African Americans, ancestral identity, Australian, bigotry, Bill Nye, black, Brazilian, China, cultural identity, current-events, DNA, ethnic, ethnic identity, ethnicity, European Americans, Iran, Iranian, NBA, race, Race in America, Russia, skin complexion, U.S.Census, white
When the founding fathers invented the system of European American (white) supremacy and African American (black) inferiority their basic mistake was to base their system on race by color. As long as they controlled society, they controlled the system, but they could not control the color of each group or the fact that we humans belong to one species of Homo sapiens. Time would eventually debunk the myth of race and begin to deconstruct the social conditioning forced on society. Many Americans are still today confused relative to the difference between race and ethnicity. Much of the confusion was caused by the scientist who wanted to push their own theories about race since it has never been defined socially. Even the term “white” experienced a number of transitions in its application to various immigrant groups to America—examples of Anglo-Saxon whites, free whites, lesser whites, and Caucasians were common. All these groups, including people of color, were considered ethnic groups, except the Anglo-Saxons.
With all the demographic changes taking place in America and the world today, a clear understanding of the terms race and ethnicity is in order. We began by stating that all human belongs belong to one race. What we commonly refer to as races today simply does not exist. We are all of one blood. The differences we experience in others come from our cultures and places of habitation. Those differences represent our ethnic differences and have nothing to do with race. The problem has been that we use race to mean ethnicity or confuse something purely cultural with something we think is biological. According to Bill Nye, author of Undeniable, (2014) “In evolutionary terms or fact, we are all almost identical. We each share 99.9 percent of the same DNA.”
All of our social identities are based on either our cultural and/or geographical attachments; one or the other or a combination of both geography and culture represent the ethnic identity. People from countries like China or India will have their culture included in the country’s name. The name of the country usually serves as the person’s ethnic identity if that country is the one of his or her birth. If, however, the parents of the person are known for their cultural identity, for example, American Indian, then the cultural identity serves as the ethnic identity. Because of these two influences, all people have two separate and often distinct identities—one ancestral or ethnic, and one cultural.
An example is in order here: If a Russian male and an Iranian female marries and have a child, that child will have an ancestral (ethnic) identity that includes both Russian and Iranian parents. However, depending on the country in which the parents are living, their child’s cultural identity might be totally different from the parents. That is, if the family is living in Iran, then the child’ cultural identity will, unless certain circumstances prevent it, reflect that country and culture. If for example, the couple lived in America, the child’s cultural identity would be American. At some point in the child’s life, a choice of a parent’s ethnic identity might be embraced. The child’s cultural identity of American will remain unless and until it is relinquished.
Another way of viewing ethnicity is by looking at the identities of the diverse people who come to America. No one comes to America legally with an identity where color is stipulated, only the geographical identity which more often than not includes the cultural identity. For example, many professional athletes from foreign countries come to work in America and regardless of their ethnic and/or ancestral identity, are identified by their geographical identity. For example, the following professional basketball players of brown complexions, are simply called Brazilians: Nene, Anderson Varejao, Tiago Splitter, Lucas Nogueira, Bruno Caboclo, and Leandro Barbosa. Two players from Australia, Kyrie Irving and Patty Mills, players with brown complexions, are known as Australians, not by their ethnic identities, but by geographical (cultural) ones. That is not to suggest that their ancestral identities are not important to them, they are not necessary to underscore their cultural identities.
Because our founding fathers instituted the system of supremacy and forced the social conditioning on all Americans, race has been at the core of all social challenges. All the social biases Americans of color experience today are based on race. Now that society is starting to understand the confusion caused by race by color and is working to replace the system of bigotry, not knowing what to do about race is a problem. We know that race is an illusion, but one that we have been living with since the beginning of our society. As race continues to lose its social value, it has to be replaced with something and that something is ethnic and cultural identities. Ethnic identities were and are important in collecting data so society and the government can monitor what is taking place relative to the general population and each ethnic group. The U.S. Census began in 1790 was a way to maintain and control the population, especially the ethnic groups of color. The changing demographics in our world and society continue to blur the lines of race as an acceptable term suitable for social identities.
Today, if each group is identified by ethnicity rather than race, discrimination by race would no longer possible. As society pushes through this process of change from racial identities to ethnic ones, we must recognize that arriving at ethnic identities is just a temporary pause, because the end result, in an idealistic sense, is having a need for no other identity than American.
The primary reason for some Americans to identify themselves as European American, African American, and Asian Americans etc…comes from a lack of information about their countries of origin. The results are seen in the terms European, African, Hispanic, etc… that rely on either geography or culture to fill in that space before “American” for ethnicity identification. The over-all objective of identity in our democratic society is for everyone regardless of their ancestral, ethnic or cultural identities to be seen and known as Americans. Embracing, promoting, and being proud one’s ethnic identity does not take away from the fact that America should value all ethnicities. Two facts remain—no one chooses his or her ancestral (ethnic) identity, and everyone can choose his or her cultural identity.
Tags: African Americans, American Bigotry, bigotry, black, communication, Confronting Myths, current-events, Dr. Robin DiAngelo, ethnicity, European Americans, FORSETTI'S JUSTICE, Prejudice, race, Race in America, skin color, skin complexion, white
People from famous writers to Supreme Court Justices to presidents and even to everyday people have acknowledged the fact that America continues to be separated by color, and try as we may, little progress has been made to bridge that gap. Certainly, strides have been made to bring the two groups together, but nothing seems to work for very long. The fact that ethnic bigotry was instituted at the very beginning of this American experience and continues today underscores its strength. The social conditioning of Americans to respect the power and privilege of skin color manifests itself in everyday life in all of our society’s institutions. Why cannot the gap that separates the two groups be filled? Actually, it can be filled; we just have to decide that we want to come together as one unified un-bigoted nation.
When a group of European Americans was asked if it were possible would they like to live their lives as African Americans? They were asked to raise their hand if the answer was yes. Not a single European American raised his or her hand. Why? Two reasons come to mind, one is that European Americans realize the privilege and power they experience because of their skin color and do not want to lose anything. Another reason is that European Americans know how American society treats African Americans and they do not want any parts of that treatment. These two questions also represent the reason many European Americans do not like to talk about race. One question that these two reasons bring to mind relative to European Americans is since they know how they feel and know how African Americans are treated in society, why do they not speak out against it as unjust and unfair? One answer is a lack of effective communications between the European Americans and the African Americans.
One of the main points of contention involving effective communications between African Americans and European Americans is the fact that they have different perceptions of reality. The European American cannot tell the African American how to address his problems because he does not perceive the problem as does the African American. For example, the problem involving a lack of good relations between the police force and the African American community is that the police still have the perception of bigotry and fear towards the African American. For them, the remedy for this problem is more troops and more training—for African Americans that is the wrong answer. The actual remedy would be an education that replaces the bigoted image of the European Americans towards the African American community to one that embraces all people as part of the human family. By doing so, the development of organizations that work together for the betterment of the communities can be constructed.
Unfortunately, many European Americans believe that their perception of reality is fair and just; they are mistaken. Society has conditioned them to see people of color as inferior and European Americans as normal and superior. No one has to teach them this bias; our society in all its institutions continues to reinforce this concept. When all the suggested solutions offered by European Americans continue to view two separate groups of people, then that is not a solution. The first order of business in resolving a problem is to recognize and understand the problem. If the problem is perception, then that is the first problem to resolve.
Blame and criticism for different perspectives should not enter the discussion, only the fact that they are different and must be made acceptable to both sides. Since society has conditioned European Americans to assume superiority as normal, not pretentious, they need to be shown that their view is biased. Achieving that particular accomplishment will be extremely challenging for as Dr. Robin DiAngelo noted in her study of white fragility that: “It became clear over time that white people have extremely low thresholds for enduring any discomfort associated with challenges to our racial worldview.” She added that “We [European Americans] can manage the first round of challenge by ending the discussion through platitudes—usually, something that starts with ‘People just need to,’ or ‘Race doesn’t really have any meaning to me,’ or ‘Everybody’s racist.’ Scratch any further on that surface, however, and we fall apart.”European Americans generally consider any effort to connect them to the system of ethnic supremacy as very unsettling and an “unfair moral offense.”None-the-less, the challenge must be made if any positive change is to be expected in replacing ethnic bigotry.
Another concern that bears consideration is the ethnic bias that is so deeply embedded in some European Americans that almost any challenge will prove ineffective. In an articles entitled “The dark rigidity of fundamentalist rural America: a view from the inside,” published in FORSETTI’S JUSTICE, ALTERNET( 27 NOV 2016 AT 09:40 ET) the writer noted that this group of people has their own way of viewing life in general, which differs from the way urban people see life: “Another problem with rural, Christian, white Americans is they are racists. I’m not talking about white hood-wearing, cross-burning, lynching racists (though some are). I’m talking about people who deep down in their heart of hearts truly believe they are superior because they are white. Their white God made them in his image and everyone else is a less-than-perfect version, flawed and cursed.” The writer was writing from his experience as a resident of rural America.
From the nature of the above quote, and the deeply fixed notion of a racial identity, no amount of facts, evidence, proof or explanations will replace such a bigoted mindset. With all the changes taking place in our society and the world, the charade of races by color is not long for this world. The sooner European Americans and people of color can begin to see each other as belonging to the same family of man the sooner all the confusion and myth-believing concerning race can be replaced. The changes will take place regardless of one’s beliefs in a race, but being aware of the facts will help the transition occur smoothly rather than with great difficulty. The changes can only begin in earnest when the lines of communications that are free from ethnic bias are established.
Tags: African Americans, American History, bigotry, black, Confronting Myths, current-events, Donald Trump, ethnicity, European Americans, hate groups, hate incidents, Obama and American Bigotry, politics, President Obama, President-elect Donald Trump, race, Southern Poverty Law Center, SPLC, The Oklahoman, white
A recent “opinion” article “Law Center’s new ‘hate’ report misconstrue cause and effect” (The Oklahoman 12/6/2016) shows just how uninformed many Americans are about bigotry and hate in America. The writer points to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as the culprit in the matter of tracking and reporting actions of hate groups in America. The article begins with identifying a recent SPLC report relative to the ‘hate incidents’ in the United States and the connections they have to President-elect Donald Trump. The article misses the point of the report when it stated that “But a closer look at the report shows these ‘incidents’ include obnoxious behavior of a type that predated the election.”
In essence, the article writer is suggesting that many of these ‘incidents’ have nothing to do with Trump and should not be considered as relevant to the report. We need not be reminded that many of the ‘incidents’ began when Trump started his ‘birther campaign’ to try to discredit President Obama and continued to grow once Trump entered the presidential race. Ignoring the seriousness of the hate and bigotry generated by many of Trump’s words and actions, the article notes that “Without doubt, Trump’s rhetoric has been crude at times, and we’ve criticized his excesses. The culture is already [ course] enough without a president adding to the rot.”For many Americans, the words and actions coming from Trump relative to women, ethnic and religious groups, not to mention the press, would not be described as “crude” and “excessive,” but unbefitting a candidate for President of the United States.
To add insult to injury, the article stated that “Still, it’s worth noting Trump has denounced those who would use his election as an excuse for racist actions or statement.”What is the value of a denunciation coming from the lead perpetrator of the action? Trump, as well as most Americans, has been conditioned to recognize bigotry, but to overlook it if it does not impact them directly. Yes, bigotry is in the fabric of American society, but as long as no one points to it, it is continually promoted and supported. Be that as it may, the focus of this blog is not Trump, but the “opinion writer’s” lack of understanding regarding “hate groups” in America and the work of the SPLC.
In order to fully appreciate the efforts of the SPLC, we offer their statement of purpose” The Southern Poverty Law Center is a nonprofit organization that combats hate, intolerance and discrimination through education and litigation. Its Intelligence Project, which prepared this report and also produces the biannual investigative magazine Intelligence Report, tracks the activities of hate groups and the nativist movement and monitors militia and other extremist antigovernment activity. The SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance project helps foster respect and understanding in the classroom. Its litigation arm files lawsuits against hate groups for the violent acts of their members”
The apparent purpose of the Opinion article was to quibble over the number of ‘hate incident’ occurring during Trump’s presidential race: “The group declares there were 867 ‘hate incidents’ in the first 10 days after Trump’s election. Those figures come from two sources—media and self-reporting to the center. The latter category is one that justifies skepticism, since there’s certainly a share of the public willing to fabricate incidents.” The article fails to see that the number of incidents is not the critical point, but the fact that these incidents occur at all! The report states that “it was not possible to confirm the veracity of all reports.” Therefore, because the SPLC could not verify each and every report, the “opinion writer” suggests we should question the entire report.
The “Opinion writer” (OW) questions the number of incidents as they relate to Trump’s election and attempts of remove any association of Trump with these numbers. The OW used as an example of how Trumps could not be responsible for the increase in ‘hate incidents’ by focusing on Oklahoma. He noted that “Oklahoma’s state population represents a little more than 1 percent of the total U.S. population. Trump received the support of 65 percent of Oklahoma voters [for the record, all 77 of Oklahoma’s counties voted for Trump], compared with less than 29 percent for Clinton. Only a few states gave higher levels of support to Trump.” The OW then made the statement: “If Trump’s election emboldened supporters to act racist, then one would expect Oklahoma to be flooded with incidents.”The writer is guilty of committing a fallacy in logic known as “hasty generalization” by concluding that because one thing exists, then the other should exist was well. Not true! So, because the SPLC found only five “hate incidents’ in Oklahoma, this coincidence is proof enough for the “OW” to question the report.
The “OW” in the article’s last paragraph attempts to impugn the integrity of the SPLC and its work: “Actual threats, vandalism and attacks should absolutely be reported and prosecuted. But the Southern Poverty Law Center tries to equate hearsay reports of ugly comments with actual physical violence against minorities, and then effectively absolves the perpetrators of genuine racism by shifting the blame to politicians.” Many hate groups want the attention and publicity that comes from “self-reporting;” so, this is why the SPLC noted in the report that “it was not possible to confirm the veracity of all reports.” Yet, the OW wants to condemn the organization for doing it job and suggesting that it shifts the blame of bigotry to unbiased politicians like we might assume—Trump. We might ask the OW for a definition of “genuine racism” since, evidently, to the writer other forms of racism/bigotry exist.
The reference this blog made to the OW being uninformed is underscored throughout this article by references to the number of “hate incidents” reported by the SPLC in a report focusing on the increase since the election of Trump. The focus of the OW should be, in order to serve a public good, to help in debunking the concept of numerous biological races that form the basis of the origins of the many ‘hate groups’ in America. These groups firmly believe in the false concept of a white race, the OW should help to replace that myth rather than quibbling over the number of “hate incidents.”
Tags: African American, bigotry, black, Confronting Myths, current-events, discrimination, DNA, Donald Trump, Dr. Robin DiAngelo, European Americans, Obama and American Bigotry, Prejudice, Presidential election, race, skin color, skin complexion, white
Much of the trouble today is being caused by changes in our society and the world that people do not understand or appreciate. Many people are concerned and worried about the new president-elect Trump and what effect his presidency will have on society. The people to be most disappointed relative to Trump’s election and his presidency will be his base supporters. They will be disappointed because Trump will not be able to deliver on the promises he made during his campaign. Politicians make promises based on things they think their followers want to hear knowing that those many of those promises will never be fulfilled. The supporters of many politicians suffer from innocence, ignorance or biases that prevent them from seeing the unrealities of the claims and promises made by their candidate. Once reality sets in, the people will see where they were misled into believing things they wanted to happen were just not possible.
The theme of Trump’s campaign was “Make American Great again,” which in code language is “make America white again.” The phrase and its sentiments have been used time and time again to garner support from the European Americans who believe that they have been left behind by the government in favor of immigrants, women, LGBT, and people of color. They still, however, enjoy the privileges that come with being European American (white) but are in fear of losing them. So, when Trump said that he wanted to make America great again, his followers knew what he meant and felt encouraged that the social changes that had taken place would not threaten their privilege and control. Regardless of what the candidate promised one thing that cannot be stopped is change. Trump supporters called for change, but what they really wanted was no change except to go back to reclaim some of the advantages they believed they lost to immigrants, women, and people of color.
So, what exactly are many European Americans afraid of losing that would cause them to disregard their sense of integrity, character, decency, values, and standards by electing someone who reflects none of these traits? The answer can be found in the social conditioning experienced by Americans since the days of the founding fathers and their inventing and instituting the system of European American (white) supremacy and African American (black) inferiority. In other words, they invented the concept of a black and white race with the white race deemed superior to all non-white races for the purpose of controlling them. Dr. Robin DiAnglo commented on this experience: “This systemic and institutional control allows those of us who are white in North America to live in a social environment that protects and insulates us from race-based stress.” She continued by noting that “We have organized society to reproduce and reinforce our racial interests and perspectives. Further, we are centered in all matter deemed normal, universal, benign, neutral and good.”With the rapid changes taking place in America, the control presently in the hands of European Americans is under constant threat of change, and is, in fact undergoing change.
The social conditioning European Americans receive in society includes little if any reference to race; therefore, they are never stressful regarding race. Society has told them that they are the representatives of the human race; they are the normal people. All other people belong to a separate race. For example, when stories are reported in the media, usually, the only reference to ethnicity occurs when the subject or subjects of the story are not European American (white). If the story concerns European Americans, ethnicity (race) is never mentioned because society must assume that the subjects are European Americans and no ethnicity (race) is required.
Another feature in American society that conditions the European Americans, as well as the rest of America to the European Americans sense of normalcy can be observed in any pharmacy or department store. All one needs to do is to ask for stockings in a nude or natural color and look closely at the color. The color will match the skin complexion of European Americans. The same scenario exists with cosmetics as well as with bandages and Band-Aids; their color approximates the European Americans’ complexion.
European Americans being able to see themselves as normal or without race or ethnic identity is constantly reinforced by and through society. They are also conditioned to see themselves as superior to all other so-called races. Both the elements of normalcy and superiority comes with a large degree of a suspension of disbelief when one realizes that people of color, according to the sciences, were the first of the Homo sapiens to appear on the planet, and in Africa. So the normal color for a human being would be non-white, not white. Also, the concept of superiority seems questionable in light of the fact that when any person of color procreate with a European American (white), the off spring generally manifest physical characteristics of the parent of color. That would suggest that the superior genes reside within the people of color. In addition, eighty percent of the world’s population reflects people of color; that number alone would suggest that the longevity of European Americans (whites) is limited. All those things make little difference when we read that our DNA show we are all from the same family of man and a specific or distinct race cannot be discerned from DNA.
The invention and instituting of the system of European American (white) supremacy and African American (black) inferiority was based on a false concept of race. The fact that the system has been able to sustain itself for so long is due to the control that European Americans have had on society. Now that the system is falling apart due to changes constantly occurring in society, the fear of losing that control and all it represents was possibly at the heart the presidential election. Regardless of who is president, changes will continue to destroy the system of bigotry. The challenge for the European Americans today is replacing the concept of being white and superior with one of being simply a member of the family of mankind without reference to preferences and skin color.
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.”