Monday, April 21, 2008

Remembering Jim Crow

While reading the various accounts of the children and grandchildren of slaves that were told in the “Remembering Jim Crow” reading it struck my just how deeply engrained in society the division between blacks and whites are even to this day. The atrocities that occurred during slavery are obviously still fresh in the minds of blacks today, and in some cases they are reminded of these acts on a daily basis. In the case of Cora Eliza Randle Flemming who’s grandmother was raped by a white man, the daily reminder was there every time that she looked in the mirror. This resentment in Flemming’s case manifested itself by her throwing bricks at the white man who lived down the street. In the face of such deeply engrained distrust of whites, it seems to put into perspective why so many attempts at transforming into an egalitarian society have failed. I am not trying to place the blame upon whites or blacks for not releasing these deep seated thoughts, but to try and help conceptualize the failures of the many attempts to bridge these gaps in our society. Such facts as that blacks in the South celebrated event such as Emancipation Day and Fredrick Douglas’ Birthday well whites in the South celebrated Jefferson Davis Birthday and had a day to commemorate Confederate soldiers, show that even today there are two parallel cultures that exist in the South. It seems almost ignorant to believe that after one group of people have total physical, economic, and cultural control over another group that these two groups could coexist peacefully. This is not to say that attempts at this should be abandoned, but by learning more about these differences I believe will allow us to set more achievable goals for future civil rights endeavors.


Mia R said...

The issue that you mentioned, about how complete "physical, economic, and cultural control over another group that these two groups could coexist peacefully," is a very interesting point that obviously raises the debate about affirmative action, something that I myself still go back and forth on. It is always a tricky subject when in an attempt to either atone for one’s ancestors past sins, or in attempt to make things right or level the playing field the current generation will suffer. Should all present day Turks have to make monetary amends to present day Armenians for the genocide committed against their people one hundred years ago? Surely there are very very few “Ottoman” Turks still alive, and even fewer still that condoned the acts of their government. So it always comes down to what will actually be done to “level the playing field,” or what have you, and because people are usually never willing to give up any money or power, your point about education is a very interesting one that I think should be explored in much more detail.

joseph mokhtari fox said...

i think this makes a great point. i found this piece to be very moving int hey way that their are these constant reminders of servitude and inequality. The part about the young mans grandmother being raped by a whit man was so powerful. i know if i had been in his position i would have a grudge against whites for sure. it is true that we have to examine the development of these two different cultures to understand the current race relations in the south because they evolved out of completely different perspectives. although i have to agree with mia to some extent that not all people condone their governments previous decisions but their is definitely influence embedded the culture.

Jean Strandberg said...

First of all (and completely unrelated), I think its funny and great that mia r referenced the ottoman empire.

Moving on to her point about affirmative action. though I agree that people will never want to give up their money/power, I think affirmative action and similar policies are a great way for redistribution to begin (though not sufficient, I think) If anyone saw Mezu Lui speak or has read her book The Color of Wealth (I know you have, Dagny), you know that something like 80% of wealth is inherited. So-living in a society where policy and racism has historically excluded African Americans from economic advancement, it is clear that and end to racism (if we would like to pretend that it has come) would create an "even playing field".

In fact, I don't believe that we can even hope for the end of racism until wealth has been redistributed. I believe that is the first, big step we must take:creating economic re-distributive policy and forcing those of us who are privileged to get over the fact that we may be inconvenienced a bit by it.