Tag Archives: segregation

The Absurdity of #AllLivesMatter

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 8.37.52 AMI suppose the social media hashtag #AllLivesMatter is well-intentioned.  Of course, everyone’s life matters. But as an offering in response to the #BlackLivesMatter campaign and philosophy, which is how people seem to be using it, the hashtag is insensitive,  a gross misunderstanding (or ignorance) of history and its legacy, and entirely absurd.

#BlackLivesMatter reminds us that American heritage reflects 400 years of institutionalized enslavement, oppression, and murder directed specifically toward – wait for it – black folks. And here’s the real sticker: for the most part, white America has stood silently by and let it happen…for four centuries.

Have “all” people been singled out for enslavement? Have “all” people had their children stolen and sold? Have “all” people had to resign themselves to arbitrary beatings and rape? Have “all” people faced a lynching for simply exercising their Constitutional rights?  Have “all” people faced the humiliation of legal public segregation? Have “all” people been denied a seat at a lunch counter or on a bus or in a theater? Have “all” people faced the reality of being singled out by law enforcement when they leave their homes? Have “all” people been criminalized for their manner of dress?  Have “all” people had to instruct their children that they will be treated as potential threats and thus take especial care not to be killed? No.

Many white Americans understand the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow era racism as things of the past – terrible yes, but over. And these folks suggest that we all move along; that if everyone obeys the law, there will be no trouble. And we will all live in peace – all of us. But anyone who has been paying attention knows that this is not the case. Anyone who reads the news and still believes things are fine is confused. Using #BlackLivesMatter does not mean that other lives do not matter – it is an acknowledgement of a history of brutality, its legacy, and its modern manifestations.

#BlackLivesMatter reminds us that the unseemly American tradition of enslavement, oppression, and murder is still with us. And until “all” Americans can admit this, little will change.

Just in case you need a reminder…

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Peace be with you,

Keith

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Digitized Green Books from the New York Public Library

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 10.01.09 AMI’ve just learned this exciting news – Jim Crow era Green Books are now available in digitized form courtesy of the New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture – a fine institution to be sure.

Green Books were travel guides for black families traveling through the segregated nation. By the 1940s, the guides included the mid-Atlantic, the South, The Midwest, and the West Coast.  The books provided information on establishments such as hotels and restaurants that catered to black folks – and thus people were able to avoid confrontations with the proprietors of  “white only” establishments.

You can find this profoundly significant resource HERE.

With compliments,

Keith

Enough

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 6.37.26 AMLike many of you, I have been preoccupied with the recent murders in Charleston. At first, I thought about writing  something that historicized modern racism through a reflection on the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and white resistance to the Civil Rights movement. But instead of commenting specifically as a historian, I would rather comment generally as a human being. If you want to get up to speed  on the history – here’s a comprehensive syllabus that has been going around on the usual social media sites. Read these books. Repost the link. You need to.

The time has long past for all Americans to wake the fuck up and understand that racially motivated violence is a deep-seated part of our national culture. And it does not seem to be going anywhere. Some have noted over the last few days, including Jon Stewart and others, that many Americans pretend racism has almost entirely faded into the past, that we have overcome a troubling part of our history and have healed our racial wounds.  As such, we interpret these events as isolated tragedies perpetrated by unstable individuals acting alone.

This self-congratulatory and self-inflicted ignorance must end. Now. Because you and I both know that it will not be long before we’re reading yet another story about yet another racially motivated murder.

I speak especially to silent white progressives. Stop pretending. Yes, your kids have black friends. Yes, you elected a black president. Good for you. But our nation’s murderous racist reality has not changed. And understand that nothing is ever going to happen to stop this despicable savagery until we can all have an open, honest, and very public conversation about race. Such a discussion is going to be unsettling. It is going to be uncomfortable. But it must take place.  Your complacency is killing people.

I have had enough. And I suspect you have as well. So do something.

Keith