Struggle for equality remains real in 21st century
Among the 40,345 residents in Warren County, in 2017, 97% were white and less than 1% were black. This letter focuses on the blacks, though Native Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and others experience ill will as well.
First some history: slavery, 1619 to 1865; Jim Crow Segregation era, 1870s to 1965; Quest for Equality, 1776 to 2020. In all, 244 years of trying to align our Constitution with our Declaration of Independence’s “all men are created equal” principle.
Full integration of the United States military did not occur until 1950 for the Navy and Air Force and 1953 for our Army.
Gentleman’s agreements limited hiring, promotion, and residences of blacks. President Trump was sued regarding his housing discrimination.
Federal government policies after World War II favored returning white vets, e. g. loans for shites’ houses, furniture, and appliances and including mortgage interest payment deductions from income tax. Blacks were segregated from suburbs.
Financial institutions were hesitant granting loans to blacks, preventing home ownership (Red Lining) and raised the bar on business start-ups loans.
Blacks benefited less than others with the G.I. Bill of Rights. The “Law was deliberated designed to accommodate ‘Jim Crow.’ “ In New York and New Jersey, 67,000 whites versus less than 150 blacks got the G.I. Bill, much worst in Southern states.
Blacks invariably receive inferior public education, e. g. the dollar expenditures per student between Erie Public schools (low) versus Harbor Creek, Millcreek, General McLane, Fairview schools (high) vary significantly.
In 2016, the Bookings Institute reported white household wealth was 10 times black household wealth, $171,000 versus $17,150.
There are “pockets” within our national cities that have high crime, poverty, food deserts, major unemployment, terrible schools, inadequate health care, hopelessness, and anger due not to the residents’ genetic makeup but to centuries of governmental policies and societal attitudes.
Jim Crow Social Practices required blacks to defer to whites, for example, using the term “boy” instead of Mister. Remember the “In the Heat of the Night” movie scene wherein Sidney Poitier (Detective Tibbs) replied when asked by the Mississippi sheriff, “What do they call you in Philadelphia?” He said, “They call me Mister Tibbs.”
Jim Crow Laws made blacks second-class citizens: “to the back of the bus”; “to the balcony”; “use the door out back”; “No colored allowed”; “be out of of town by sunset”; “no Blacks in my neighborhood”; vote denial – lynchings, etc.
There is racial injustice. Police tend to use an adversary approach with blacks versus service approach with Caucasians. Blacks receive harsher punishments and tend to have less legal representation. George Floyd is a recent addition to a long list killed by the police.
Police have used racial profiling, stopping blacks for being “suspicious” if found in “the wrong place” at the “wrong time” or for simply being outside.
Wrong-headed conventional white thinking that hurtful racial stereotypes are fine, harmlessly funny and true e. g. telling of, laughing at, or not stopping the telling of a racial joke. Being silent, is wrong and hurtful. During the 1950s a minister and a school administrator in my Ohio hometown were “end men – the jokesters” in black face minstrel shows. Recently, an Indiana priest called black protesters “criminals and maggots.” These are examples of the depth of racial stereotype acceptance, in the past and now.
President Trump provokes racial division, saying that “Black Lives Matter is a symbol of hate.” There are at least 55 confirmed incidents of violence, threats, and assaults whereby Trump’s words were recited by the perpetrators. A recent one was in Seattle on July 5 when a 27-year-old caucasians drove his Jaguar into a legal and peaceful group of protesters, killing one protester. Trump supports traitor loser monuments and symbols erected during the post Civil War Jim Crow Era glorifying the white minority’s subjugating blacks. He believes that it is a part of our history that should be celebrated.
Trump media supporter, Laura Ingraham in 2018 told NBA star, LeBron James to “shut up” talking social justice and “dribble the ball.” Colin Kaepernick had his NFL career denied him when he took a knee, a non-violent gesture for racial equality.
More wrong-headed thinking, L.A. Dodger VP Al Campanis’ statements from 1987: “Blacks can’t manage, not smart enough”; “Blacks don’t mind the heat, they are from Africa”; “Blacks are lazy.” Facts: the majority of athletes on our college and pro basketball and football teams are black and NASA recently re-named their Langley Computer Research Facility after Katherine Johnson and their Washington Headquarters after Mary Jackson, the two Black women featured in the 2016 Oscar nominated film “Hidden Figures.
Recently, athletic leaders, professional team owners, and universities acknowledged racial inequality and racial insensitivity with name changing, encouraging social and racial reform, and supporting player activism, examples of some right-headed white thinking.
Also, more are supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement and police reform protests, as they acknowledge M. L. King’s “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
I stand with Duke University head Basketball Coach K’s calling out “systematic racism” and I kneel with Colin Kaepernick’s non-violent gesture for racial equality.
Don Scott is a North Warren resident.