Growing up in Stockton California was great! However, when the riots started in 1969 between Caucasians and African Americans, it changed my whole perspective of life as I knew it. I’ll never forget it, for this was going to be my first time going to school on the “White side of town”. Not understanding why my parents were so nervous about us going to schoolâ€¦soon became clear to me like water running out of a faucet. Remembering back to when I was 13 years old, I can still hear my mother saying to my dad, “Jeff, I don’t want my kids going out there; you know what they did to Mildred child” (Aunt Mildred’s son Keith was found hanging from a tree in her front yard. The story was that he killed himself because he was depressed, but Aunt Mildred said his hands were tied behind his back). Lying on the floor in front of the television, I was supposed to be sleep, but my mom did not know that I was hearing everything her and my dad was talking about. Wanting to learn what the problem was with us going to the White people school, I remained with my back towards them so they wouldn’t know that I was awake. Mother saidâ€¦”Jim Crow will never let us be equal who are we kiddingâ€¦ I’m scared for my babies what if they wind up like Keith?”… Then she started to cry. That was my first time hearing the name Jim Crow.
In the 21st century, the name Jim Crow still brings about some form of uneasiness for the African American Community, especially for the older generations that have lived through out that Era. Nowadays when you see the older generations, they don’t talk about the Jim Crow Laws, however, you can see how they live their lives, and speak to their Caucasian counter parts, that they are still aware of the etiquettes that came with those laws. It makes me wonder if the Jim Crow laws are still around. Taking a closer look at the Jim Crow Laws, I will determine if those laws are still present in some form in the 21st Century.
Looking back into the origin of Jim Crow, it began as a minstrel show when a man by the name of Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice introduced the act into his failing career. He would dance around and sing, this little jigâ€¦”Come listen all you galls and boys, I’m going to sing a little song, my name is Jim Crow. Weel about and turn about and do jis so, Eb’ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow.” And because of this one man’s minstrel show, came the laws that would keep the Africa American community separated by regulations.
Ferris State University had this to say concerning Jim Crow:
The name Jim Crow is often used to describe the segregation laws, rules, and customs which arose after reconstruction ended in 1877 and continued until the mid 1960’sâ€¦the name became associated with these “Black Codes” which took away many rights which had been granted to Blacks through the 13th,14th, and 15th Amendmentsâ€¦ By 1838, the term “Jim Crow” was being used as a collective racial epithet for blacks, not as offensive as nigger, but as offensive as coon or darkieâ€¦ By the end of the 19th century the words Jim Crow were less likely to be used to derisively describe blacks; instead the phrase Jim Crow was being used to describe laws and customs which oppressed blacks
Some of the Jim Crow Laws (Black Code) were very extreme; the laws were so strict it was almost like the African American people were still in slavery. However, some would say that the Jim Crow Laws were there to make sure the African American people knew there place. And even though African Americans were free from slavery, in all actuality they would still never be equal. The segregation of public schools, and public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants and even the drinking fountains that were separate for Whites and Blacks, are just some the examples of the Jim Crow Laws. The laws even went so far as to tell you who you could or could not marry! For no Caucasian person could marry an African American, for if they did, the marriage would be null and void. This was truly a sad time in American History. One day, the Jim Crow Laws were challenged by an African American man by the name of Homer Pessly. In 1896 he challenged the Separate Car Law, (accommodations for riding on the railroad car)â€¦”the U.S. Supreme Court decided that a Louisiana law mandating separate but equal accommodations for blacks and whites on intrastate railroads was constitutional” (Bsgu.edu 1997). However this Law was overturned in 1954 when another case was heard. Brown v. Board of Education, this lawsuit challenges the schools segregation law. Was this the beginning of the end of Jim Crow? Some say yes, but upon closer examination and according to Brown Foundation (2004). “That in 1849 a group of African Americans had filed suit against an education system that mandated racial segregation in the case of Roberts V. City of Boston”. We as Americans know that sometimes it takes time for a change to come. So while some may say in 1954 they won the fight, in all actuality, they won the battle! For the fight had started over 100 years earlier.
We are now in the 21st century where African Americans have more liberties, however, we still hear from time to time about reverse discrimination. It is so sad that we hear about discrimination almost on a daily basis. Not with just Caucasians, but with every race. In some areas of the United States the “good ol` boy” standards are still alive and well. According to Starrepublic.org: “The good ol` boy network and the Ku Klux Klan informally enforced the Jim Crow etiquette; and if you broke this etiquette it could result in Lynching”…we don’t hear of lynching anymore, but there are times when there are crosses burned on African Americans yards for them moving into an all White neighborhood, or because they have married outside of their race. And what is so amazing is that even now, even though we don’t hear the term Jim Crow, or Jim Crow Laws, the etiquette of what is appropriate and not appropriate is still with the African American Community to some extent. You don’t see this so much in the younger generation, but those born in the 50’s thru the mid 70’s, you can still see the effects of Jim Crow on them. They walk with their heads down, never look at the Caucasian person in the eyes, sometimes they are quick to agree with whatever was said, almost like they are scared of what would happen if they didn’t do all those things they were told to do.
In Conclusion, The Jim Crow Laws set out to do one thing and one thing only. To separate the races (Caucasian, African American), and to keep them separate in all areas of life and for many years they did just that. We no longer have the “Jim Crow Laws” in principle but to some extent they still exist, (White Supremacist, KKK, Skinheads) it’s almost like a small ripple in a pond, Every now and then the ripple gets large enough to be notice.
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