Monday, July 18, 2016

Equal Opportunity Bigotry

Was equal opportunity bigotry an expected outcome of the Montgomery Bus Boycott?

Rosa Parks: a Life by Douglas Brinkley
Rosa Parks: a Life
by Douglas Brinkley
Jim Crow on every corner?
Everybody free to hate?
Is that what Rosa Parks was after?
Is that what the Montgomery Bus Boycott was all about?

Everyone born with a chip on their shoulder?

There are Americans who contend that Jim Crow lurks on the frayed edges of society in a "new and improved" multi-racial format that supports the inalienable right of every American to be or become an equal opportunity bigot.

Equal opportunity bigotry, seemingly rapidly becoming a universal U.S. privilege, can be demonstrated without regard to race, creed, color, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, physical ability, occupation, income, intelligence, integrity or honesty as demonstrated in today's political campaigns, corporate boardrooms and Congressional hearings, all playing out before our very eyes like reality television shows on social media, network news broadcasts and the streets of American cities.

A "Colored School" in South Carolina, ca.1878
A "Colored School" in South Carolina, ca.1878
The fact is: If it had not been for Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her seat that first day of December in 1955, all of the above, including anti-Jim Crow legislation, may have been delayed or even halted by southern segregationists and others afraid of the race battle that started it all. 

When the Montgomery Bus Boycott began, I was in first grade at an overcrowded segregated Jim Crow school not intended to accommodate both elementary and middle school grades, which included sharing single-student desks and used hand-me-down books from area mainstream schools. That, however, was the custom since the end of the Civil War, beyond the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v the Board of Education, and continued after Rosa Parks sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott from 1955-56. 

My family insisted I know changes were over the horizon, just in case those changes would, in fact, change my life after Brown v the Board of EducationMy family wanted me to be ready. Being ready means being educated. However, my mother pushed education anyway, changes coming or no changes coming. "Being ignorant will not save you!" She preached constantly, watching newspapers daily for updates on local school policy. "No change, yet," she said. And so it was until I graduated from a segregated high school. But she got me ready in spite of it all. 

MLK dedication to U.S. Supreme Court
Chief Justice, Earl Warren

Brown v the Board of Education
Rosa Parks: a Life by Douglas Brinkley, scholar, historian and television commentator, provided me a peek at Jim Crow through the lens of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. 

David Brinkley's research included Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story by Martin Luther King, in which King laments about the non-response to the Brown ruling that segregation is unconstitutional. This book, too, which I am now re-reading, is revealing of the underpinnings of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Reference to Brown v the Board of Education brought back memories of my mother reading newspapers for policy changes she hoped would allow me a better education than her own. And when she did not see policy changes, I remember her ordering research books, subscribing to magazines and combing shelves of used bookstores so she could give me what my schools were not equipped to offer me. 

My mother, Little Nash
My mother believed in education. And somehow she made education happen for herself and for me, instilling in me the responsibility to continue educating myself throughout my life. 

"When I have gotten you as far as I can, you will have to take over," she said. "You are the only one who will have the capacity to put yourself in a position to make a difference. And if you want that difference to count for something in this Jim Crow world, you'd better be educated."

Jim Crow Sheet Music Cover (M.T. Rice, 1832)
Cover to Jim Crow
Sheet Music
 © 1832

Who was Jim Crow? Where is he now?

Many Americans have heard of Jim Crow but do not fully understand Jim Crow laws and traditions, or the impact those laws and traditions have had on U.S. race relations. 

More than 60 years ago Rosa Parks led the nation to the beginning of what should have ended Jim Crow. 

Rosa Parks Federal Building, Detroit, Michigan
Rosa Parks Federal Building, Detroit Michigan
I have new insight into Rosa Parks, the Montgomery Bus Boycott and Martin Luther King, whose activism was launched by the Montgomery Bus Boycott, earning Parks the title, Mother of the Modern Civil Rights Movement

Personalities, gossip, lies, troublemakers, gold diggers, fame seekers, saboteurs, road blocks and home-grown jealousies came close to destroying the  Boycott. 

At the start of the first meeting, tempers flared. People argued and seemed to reach permanent  disagreement. During the boycott, several plots were waged to interfere with the protest. Then, like magic, the black community of Montgomery seemed to ascend above all the conflict like they knew what to do and they did it. In spite of the boycott's ultimate success, some of the early issues did not disappear, forcing Rosa Parks' husband into the bottle and her away from her home in Montgomery, resettling with her husband and mother near her brother in Detroit, the city that embraced Rosa Parks as its very own living Legend.

Reading Douglas Brinkley's book on Rosa Parks...

Douglas Brinkley, Historian
Douglas Brinkley, Historian
Author of Rosa Parks: a Life
It was like looking into the eyes of an old friend who knows me well and is patiently trying to help me finish a dark and lonely journey.

I grew up knowing about Jim Crow, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and all the sordid associations with racism, details about which I deliberately eliminated from my recall. Being as close to the subject as I was actually blinded me and robbed me of the ability to use sound reasoning in my consideration of the matters. I was biased, even warped, for many years--would not, could not consider other points of view. 

Considering other points of view is called fairness, my mother would say. 

For years, I stayed away from thinking about Jim Crow racism, just couldn't bring myself to reliving all of that. It was too much! Life is hard enough, as it is, without piling Jim Crow compost on top of the mix. But I am over that now. I now accept the memories of the Jim Crow society in which every member of society was subjected. Those memories are real. Jim Crow laws profoundly affected U.S. race relations, setting into motion discrimination against former slaves, and eventually led America down a destructive path. What I do not accept is Jim Crow because too much blood was shed to destroy that way of life. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Bus Boycott steered the nation onto a path toward modern civil rights legislation. 

Brinkley's book about Rosa Parks clarified my thinking and revealed through interviews with survivors of the era that all the players in the saga were human, just like me, with biases of their own. His objective, yet passionate, view of the Montgomery Bus Boycott helped me face what my own life failed to teach me about Jim Crow. I get it, now, Douglas. Thank you!

I have come to understand that race relations is not merely an abstract term, but a representation of the feelings and treatment of human beings. Black and white may well be where the modern civil rights discussion began but, with all our other colors and human situations entering the arena, black and white is certainly not where the discussion will end.


    Bigmama Didn’t Shop  At Woolworth’s  Sunny Nash

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Sunny Nash author of bigmama didn't shop at woolworth's

Sunny Nash 

Leading author on U.S. race relations, according to the Association of American University Presses

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. 

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.

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 conduct workshops, and write articles and blogs on race relations in America through topics relating to her lifemusic, 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.

© 2016 Sunny Nash. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. 
~Thank You~

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