"We're all Jim Crow's children," my mother said to me when I was a little girl. "I mean the black ones, the brown ones, the white ones and all those in between."
"Jim Crow is not my daddy," I said.
"Jim Crow may not be your daddy," she said. "But you're still Jim Crow's child."
Many people think the only children affected by Jim Crow laws were black children. This is simply a myth. Jim Crow's children include everyone who lived in any part of Jim Crow's world and went through America's public education system--past and present, North and South, urban, suburban and rural. Most people are not aware of the impact of Jim Crow laws on their own lives, and the lives of their ancestors. And some of those ancestors may have been responsible for creating and enacting Jim Crow laws without realizing the lasting effects inside their very own homes for generations to come.
Deep-seated feelings of superiority and inferiority are the reasons we still need to have conversations about race relations in America.
|Sophia Gordon Runaway Slave|
"Some people don't know there was also slavery in northern states above the Mason-Dixon Line. Don't know what that line demarcates?" My mother asked.
"The Mason-Dixon Line is the cultural line separating the North and the South," she said. "It was established by a 1763 and 1767 survey to settle a border dispute between states, and had everything to do with racial classification in the United States and the perpetuation of slavery, the lifeblood of the nation, North and South. Because Washington D.C. is below the Mason-Dixon Line, there was slavery conducted within your nation's capitol.
"What?" I asked, getting interested.
"That's right," she said. "Even though Jim Crow laws have been erased from the books, their influence on all of us is still with us. This includes people who are products of the old segregated system in both the North and the South, many of their children, their children's children and so on and so on."
"I hate them!" I said.
"Why do I care what the next guy is going through?" I asked her.
"Self preservation," she said.
"Self preservation?" I asked.
"If you understand what the next guy is going through," she said. "You may be able to guess his next move. If you can guess his next move, maybe you'll have time to do something."
To define race, cast a wide net.
Home of an Italian Rag Picker via Preus Museum
In some cases of Italian racial classification, there seemed to have been a reliance on shades of complexion—fair-skinned northern Italians as opposed to dark-skinned southern Italians with latter receiving lower wages and harsher treatment economically and legally. Based on these criteria, segregation was imposed, which affected education and social services.
Racial categorizing led to the largest mass lynching of any group in the history of the United States in 1891. Although African Americans were customary targets, Southern Italian immigrants were targeted as well and many scholars believe the color of their skin played a significant part in the outcome of the injustice they sustained. Eleven southern Italian merchants were hanged in New Orleans and their corpses placed on public display. In fact, in the 1890s, 22 Southern Italians were lynched in parishes around Louisiana.
Gerald R. Gems
Sport and the Shaping
of Italian American Identity
(Sports and Entertainment)
Gerald R. Gems said in his book on page 62, Sport and the Shaping of Italian American Identity, "Many Sicilians disembarked at New Orleans, and took up work on the sugar plantations of Louisiana, where hard physical labor became known as nigger work or dago work. At the 1889 state constitutional convention, representatives asserted, "according to the spirit of our meaning when we speak of a white man's government [the Italians] are as black as the blackest Negro in existence."
Italians, like African Americans in Louisiana and other parts of the Deep South, could not hold public office or vote and were restricted to segregated housing, employment and schools.
A tactic of racial classification was to pit one group against another as a practical power strategy to control human behavior and resources, and control the region's politics. On the other hand, however, over time, some members of manipulated white, black and other groups have developed deep psychological mistrust, resentment and feelings of superiority or inferiority toward each other that have lasted throughout history.