Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What Is Race? The Series

There is more to race than skin color.

My mother always told me, "never judge a book by its cover. Assumptions are not practical; they can prevent you from recognizing your enemy, your friend or even your kin."


Jumping to conclusions about a person, based solely on the color of their skin is:

A. Ignorant?
B. Illogical?
C. Unfair?
D. Dangerous?
E. All of the above?

Closed Circuit TV (Wikipedia)
The authorities in Washington state jumped to the conclusion that the mall shooter was Hispanic, based solely on a fuzzy security camera image. When asked about the assumption that the shooter was Hispanic, the authority answered, "dark complexion" and something about hair.

I asked myself, were they looking at the same fuzzy image I was looking seeing? 

Was their conclusion based on what they wanted or hoped would be the case? What would those same authorities say about me? 

Apply the quiz to the Washington authorities' assumption about the shooter's about the race, ethnicity and culture. 
A. Ignorant?
B. Illogical?
C. Unfair?
D. Dangerous?
E. All of the above?
Now that the facts about the shooter are being revealed, what is revealed about the original assumptions the Washington authorities made about race?

In addition, multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-national Americans struggle with the issue of race, often being assigned to a race or religion that is not remotely related to theirs simply because of their complexion. Complexion is like the cover of a book. Maybe the cover reveals a hint of the pages inside and maybe not. The cover of a book can be as completely misleading as a person's complexion, hair, eye color, size, body shape, weight, gender and style of dress, among a host of other qualities. My mother always told me, 

Perhaps a better way to describe a person is NOT to try characterizing him or her by race. A better approach is to describe their physical characteristics without assigning physical characteristics to a particular racial group. Unless the person assigning the suspect's race is an expert in population genetics, a mistake can be made that will be harmful to legal investigation and apprehension. Properly trained personnel will not lead public opinion in an inaccurate direction by jumping to unfounded conclusions.

Barack Obama and sister, Maya Soetoro
Mother Ann Dunham
Stanley Dunham

 Hawaii (early 1970s)
What is race?

This series is not intended to answer all the questions Americans and the world have about race in the United States. This series is intended to present points of view for consideration and discuss on the questions of race in America.

When the Founding Fathers debated the writing of the document and finally agreed on what to include in the U.S. Constitution, the elephant in the room sucking up all the energy and air in the new nation slavery was not mentioned in the document at all. The institution of bonded humans being in the new nation was referred to language coded for slaves in Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, when the document describes the Legislative branch, the House of Representatives, one house of Congress, other being the Senate. Referring to slaves, the coded language states: three fifths of all other Persons.

Paragraph 3 of Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution Article 1  states:

  • Representatives and direct Texas shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

Many Founders wrestled with the notion of slavery, some in disagreement with its very existence. However, the founders who own slaves and depended on the institution for their wealth were appeased by the group in order that the new Union of the States be declared. This portion of the U.S. Constitution was not changed until the U.S. Constitution was amended for the thirteenth and fourteenth times.

Amendment 13 was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865, declared that slavery shall not exist in the United States and gave Congress the power of punishment of crimes violating this amendment. 

Abraham Lincoln

Amendment 13, Section 1 states: 

  • Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the part shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Amendment 13, Section 2 states: 

  • Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Amendment 14, ratified on July 9, 1868, granted full citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, including former slaves.

Amendment 14, Section 1 states: 

  • All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. 

Most persons with any familiarity with U.S. history know that it took a century of struggle for these points of law to be recognized fully. And some believe these points of law are being violated even today. However, these amendments are the points of law that gave civil rights activists legal legs to stand on when presenting certain state laws and national practices to the U.S. Supreme Court and having the court declared these laws and practices unconstitutional during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The more than one year long Montgomery Bus Boycott, ignited by Rosa Parks, and led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In November 1956, the Supreme Court upheld the federal district court ruling in Browded v Gayle, deciding that bus segregation was unconstitutional and struck down state and local laws that demanded segregated seating on public buses. 

The Montgomery Bus Boycott led to:

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first civil rights legislation that the U.S. Congress had passed since the middle of the 19th Century, signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. 
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson

This series is not intended to answer all the questions Americans and the world have about race in the United States. This series is intended to present points of view for consideration and discuss on the questions of race in America. 


  • Deal with the question of race that has plagued the United States since it's inception.
  • Offer discussion on the issue of slavery that emerged in the economic dispute between the original Americans Colonies after the American Revolution.
  • Examine why the Founding Fathers argued over the issue of slavery
  • Demonstrate that many of the founders were slaver owners
  • Give some insight to the causes of the Civil War
  • Give some insight to what led to the era of Jim Crow laws
  • Allow personal interpretation on how the founding affected future race relations in the U.S.


Rosa ParksMontgomery Bus Boycott
The race battle raged through the next century and erupted into the Civil Rights Movement, exploding onto American streets through the Montgomery Bus Boycott, led by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King

Montgomery Bus Boycott, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King became central topics of conversation with my mother during the 1950s when bus travel was our primary mode of transportation. 

And the U.S. relations struggle continues.

What Is Race: The Series

What Is Race? Part One: Conversations With My Mother
What Is Race? Part Two: My Mother, Race Relations Adviser
What is Race? Part Three: My Mother - On Jim Crow's Children
What is Race? Part Four: Who is Jim Crow?
What is Race? Part Five: How to Conquer Racism

Sunday, August 30, 2015

What is Race? Part Five: How to Conquer Racism

A glimpse at Jim Crow--where we have been and where we should be going

When I was a little girl, my mother warned me that some segments of society wanted me to have low expectations to decrease my potential to shine. "Jim Crow," she said.

"Controlling competition controls society," she said. "Keeping you out by any means possible could ensure a place for their own. So, enforcing low expectations among certain people is a ploy of Jim Crow." 

My mother's expectations for me were very high--higher than I thought I could achieve. She wanted me to spend part of my summer reading books she brought home. Then I had to travel to some other part of the country to see different things. She made me write letters to relatives and collect the stamps on their return mail. At the time, I had no idea why she was torturing me so with piano lessons, dancing classes, tennis, swimming, etiquette, correct language usage, good grades. 

"High expectations for yourself are the only way you can conquer racism."

"I can change racism?" I asked.

"No," she yelled. "Did I say you could change racism? You can't change racism!"

"Then what?" I asked.

 "Conquer racism!"


"You have to out-spell, out-read, out-write, out-speak and out-everything else better than you think you can, if you want to get somewhere in this low-down, crooked, one-sided Jim Crow racist system," she said. "If you don't, out-do what you think you can do, you will be forever trying to fight your way up with no weapons! And that is how you conquer racism! 

This video, a Book Trailer for my book, Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth'sabout life with my part-Comanche grandmother during the Civil Rights Movement, is for those who want a glimpse of the Jim Crow past in order to learn from it. My book was recognized by the Association of American University Presses as essential for understanding U.S. race relations and recommended by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida for Native American collections. Views have reached 4,481. I would appreciate you helping the views climb to 5,000 before the end of the year. Thank you.

What is Race? The Series:

Thank you for visiting. Please come again. 


    Bigmama Didn’t Shop  At Woolworth’s  Sunny Nash

Hard Cover

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Sunny Nash author of bigmama didn't shop at woolworth's
Sunny Nash is an author, producer, photographer and leading writer on U.S. race relations. 

Sunny Nash writes books, blogs, articles and reviews, and produces media and images on U.S. history and contemporary American topics, ranging from Jim Crow laws to social media networking. Sunny Nash is the author of Bigmama Didn't Shop At Woolworth's (Texas A&M University Press), about life with her part-Comanche grandmother during the Civil Rights Movement.

Sunny Nash’s book is recognized by the Association of American University Presses as essential for understanding U.S. race relations. Nash's book is also listed in the Bibliographic Guide for black studies at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York; and recommended for Native American collections by the Miami-Dade Public Library System in Florida. Nash uses her book to write articles and blogs on race relations in America through topics relating to her life--from music, film, early radio and television, entertainment, social media, Internet technology, publishing, journalism, sports, education, employment, the military, fashion, performing arts, literature, women's issues, adolescence and childhood, equal rights, social and political movements--past and present—to today's post-racism. homepage

© 2015 Sunny Nash. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. 
~Thank You~

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Martin Luther King vs. Malcolm X: Who was more radical?

Radical in Different Ways

Martin Luther King & Malcolm X meeting

Martin Luther King & Malcolm X

Critics compared Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, saying that X more accurately reflected a growing sentiment of young people in the black community, attitudes that created the Black Power Movement.

And King, they said, represented the old tradition of turning the other cheek.

Looking at the way these two men approached change, one would think that Martin Luther King was the elder of the two, choosing nonviolent protest; and Malcolm choosing "any means necessary." The elder being part of an older generation and the radical one being of the younger generation. The truth is Malcolm X was four years older than King.
  • Martin Luther King, born January 15, 1929
  • Malcolm (X) Little, born May 18, 1925

Some observers came to believe that Martin Luther King was not radical enough, professing the nonviolent style of protest, intended to shame the aggressor into a different behavior, even providing specialized training for protesters of the nonviolent persuasion, teaching them to resist the urge to fight back. Is peaceful resistance a radical approach? Some critics say peaceful resistance is more radical than fighting back  because it is such an unexpected reaction. 

While, on the other hand, Malcolm X stood for an "any means" approach to change, also radical because this approach had been prohibited by Jim Crow tradition, making a violent retaliation mob punishable by lynching to create extreme community fear.

Young Teenage Malcolm X (Little)
Malcolm Little 
Young Martin Luther King just out of college
Martin Luther King
These men of the same generation were diametrically opposed in their tactics. Could one reason have been their backgrounds?

Both their fathers were ministers, but that may be where their similarities ended. 

Martin was born and raised in a stable, two-parent comfortable family home. Malcolm's father's activism caused the family to move frequently and may have caused the father's death when Malcolm was four years old. Afterwards his father was killed, his mother suffered a breakdown and was placed in a mental institution. Malcolm and his seven siblings were split up and placed in orphanages and foster homes. 

Malcolm X (Little) Jail Mugshot

Malcolm (X) Little Mugshot
MLK Morehouse 1948
Malcolm became a street hustler, drug dealer, thief and prison convict. Martin attended college and amassed degrees and scholarly awards. Could their lives have accounted for their approaches to social change?

Malcolm X Speaking to Crowd
Malcolm X
Martin Luther King Speaking at Podium
Martin Luther King
It is a well accepted fact that Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were quite different in the way they sought social justice.

Although, they shared common ground. 

Malcolm X meets Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King based his approach to protest of Jim Crow treatment on nonviolence. Malcolm X based his his approach to protest of Jim Crow treatment on violence or "any means necessary," in his words. In your opinion, did either approach make one safer than the other?
  • Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965. 
  • Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What Is Race? Part Four: Who Is Jim Crow?

When I was a child I heard all kinds of truths and lies about what race was and was not, and tried to figure out where I fit into the messy equation. One day, my mother and I were walking to the store and the question spilled out of my month. 

"Who is Jim Crow Anyway?"

Sunny Nash, Six Years Old 

Sketch by Oklahoma Artist
Farmer-Stockman Magazine
"Jim Crow is an ugly thing made up a long time ago to keep people against each other," my mother said.

"Keep white people and black people against each other?" I asked.

"Jim Crow can even keep people in the same family against each other," She said. 

"I don't understand."

"People in the same group can be jealous of each other and try to hurt each other," she said. "Jim Crow was designed for that. Keep them fighting each other and they won't have time to fight us."

"I don't understand."

"Black people tearing each other down," she said. "Poor people fighting each other no matter what their color; girls jealous of each other because one has a prettier dress or longer hair."

"I don't understand."

"All the fighting and squabbling is Jim Crow's trap!" She said. "Don't get caught in it. It takes too much time and never amounts to anything but mess for no real reason."

Did Jim Crow make up race? I asked my mother.

She took a while to formulate her answer.  I could tell she was going to be careful about what she said. This was not the same kind of question she had grown accustomed to my asking when I was that young. I asked a lot of questions, so many that, sometimes, she simply told me, "Shut up!" Then apologized for being rude. 

"Why are you asking such a question?" She threw it back to me. "You're six years old. Where is this coming from?"

My mother never minced words when talking to me or sugarcoated any subject or ever talked baby talk to me. She simply gave me big chunks of information, sometimes in very raw form. When she came up with her answers for my endless questions, she always threw a question back at me. While I was coming up with my answer to her question, she had time to come up with the answer to my original question. The longer it took her, the more detailed her answer would be. However, my answer to her question had to be pretty good or she would throw me another question. And I could never repeat my original question, to which her response would be: 

"I heard you the first time!"

So, I waited patiently for her answer. My mother was very smart and read everything. She bought reference books and subscribed to newspapers and magazines, some were black publications that covered the horrors of life in the southern United States, including Emmett Till, the little boy who had been beaten, tortured and found in 
the Tallahatchie River with a cotton gin fan tied with barbed wire around his neckPictures of his brutalized body were published in the black magazine, Jet. 

"He wasn't much older than you," my mother had told me. "Jim Crow did that."

"Who is Jim Crow," I asked.

"The monster Rosa Parks is fighting!"

"Rosa Parks is fighting a monster?" I asked.

"Not like the monster under your bed," my mother shouted.

"There's a monster under my bed?" I shouted back!

"Shut up!"

Jim Crow Minstrel Character
Jim Crow Minstrel Character
Jim Crow, a minstrel character invented by a white actor in black face, Thomas "Daddy" Rice, represented laws to perpetuate oppression of African Americans after the Civil War. Outlandishly dressed, oafish portrayals of plantation slaves entertained white audiences from the 1850s to the mid-20th century with performances in churches and public schools through the 1950s and into the 1960s. 

Based on a slave song, Jim Crow represented oppressive laws and helped to sustain a degraded image of African Americans and their existence, in which they were trapped. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 passed over President Andrew Johnson's veto. Andrew Johnson, Abraham Lincoln's vice president and successor when Lincoln was assassinated after the Civil War. 

The Civil Rights Act of 1866  declared, "all persons born in the United States were now citizens, without regard to race, color, or previous condition. As citizens they could make and enforce contracts, sue and be sued, give evidence in court, and inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property. Persons who denied these rights to former slaves were guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction faced a fine not exceeding $1,000, or imprisonment not exceeding one year, or both." 

Nine Supreme Court Justices Decide Plessy v. Ferguson
Nine Supreme Court Justices
Decide Plessy v. Ferguson
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1896, legalized Jim Crow separate but equal between the races in the decision of against a black man who sued the railroad for refusing him a seat in the white section of the train. This ruling laid a legal foundation for discrimination in accommodations, services, education, housing, employment, health care, legal representation and everything affecting American life and held a firm hold on race relations in the United States. 

lynched black woman pic
Lynching of African American
Laura Nelson 1911

Jim Crow activities by the Ku Klux Klan undermined the act in the United States in the late nineteenth century, and the act failed to guarantee civil rights for former slaves, including female African Americans who suffered retaliation for speaking out for their civil rights. Because many victims of lynching were females, black women led the outcry against racially motivated lynching, a key to enforcing the Jim Crow system of government in most parts of the officially segregated South and, to a large degree, in the unofficially segregated North.
Anti-lynching Crusaders  NAACP Button, 1900
Anti-lynching Crusaders 
NAACP Button, 1900

In the 1890s, journalist, Ida B. Wells (1852-1932), wrote in protest of lynching and later the Anti-lynching Crusaders, a group of black women within the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), made a lot of noise  against this Jim Crow criminal practice, until the Legislature took on the problem in 1918 in a bill intended to punish state, county and local officials who did not stop lynching in their locales and create an atmosphere to end the practice altogether. Although the House of Representatives passed anti-lynching laws three times, none of the efforts passed in the U. S. Senate. The Senate finally apologized on Monday, June 13, 2005, for not passing anti-lynching laws over the course of its history.

A second attempt at civil rights legislation to combat Jim Crow was passed in 1868 in the form of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Section I of the amendment sums up its meaning and intentions. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

African American Schoolhouse South Boston, Virginia
African American Schoolhouse
South Boston, Virginia
1920s & 1930s
The Civil Rights Act of 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment, extended voting to women, who were also victims of Jim Crow. The Act stated in Section I: The right of the citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Section II states: Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. 

In 1954, Brown v. the Board of Education made another attempt to destroy Jim Crow. The U.S. Supreme Court in Brown legislated: “Segregation of white and Negro children in the public schools of a State solely on the basis of race, pursuant to state laws permitting or requiring such segregation, denies to Negro children the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment--even though the physical facilities and other "tangible" factors of white and Negro schools may be equal.”

In the northern states where legal segregation had not been sanctioned by separate but equal, local Jim Crow enthusiasts controlled education, property ownership and voting rights as well as where people lived, where they went to school, where they worked, where they were born, how they were punished and where they were buried when they died. These laws and local traditions took away all of the freedoms former slaves had gained after the South had supposedly lost the Civil War and had wiped out all of the strides African Americans made during Reconstruction from 1865 through about 1877, when the federal government withdrew from the South all resources that financed efforts toward equality for the next 90 years.

"The same people who made up Jim Crow made up race," my mother finally said softly. "And it's now something we are all stuck with."

"What about Dr. Martin Luther King?" I asked.

"I'm afraid he's stuck with it, too."

"What if we changed Jim Crow's name?" I asked.

"Changing his name will not change him," she said.