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January 20th, 2005

Racial Discrimination in Sign Form

I know it’s an easy thing to just take a link from a weblog and put it here, but I wanted to say how very moved I was by the Library of Congress collection of racial discrimination signage.

These images show a very frightening time in American history, when unbased and uneducated fear was so very rampant that it simply owned society. Amazing images.

Posted in Miscellaneous

FROM: jjkl [E-Mail]
DATE: Thursday January 20, 2005 -- 3:21:40 pm
my comment

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Thursday January 20, 2005 -- 4:15:28 pm
when unbased and uneducated fear was so very rampant that it simply owned society

I understand that you are moved by the photos. Thanks for sharing.

I hope you don't mean to imply, however, that all of today's societal fear that is so rampant as to simply own society is based and educated. I think the modern age is marked by a different set of irrational fears, which are just as baseless and uneducated as racism is.

It's easy to pretend such prejudice occurs elsewhere, even if elsewhere is some other time. Images of prejudicial oppression and disparity every bit as stirring as these could be captured today if the government decided to dispatch legions of photographers under some government program vaguely aimed at cultural improvement. But these days we like to pretend that such disparity only occurs in foreign lands in order to conveniently recharacterize our imperialistic foreign policy as liberationist.

But then, the South was (is?) still half considered a foreign land by Yankee senators who frequented such whites only establishments as The Metropolitan Club in Washington DC, which was also "whites only." Apparently, it's only bad if someone else does it.

Because they're so divisive, you'll never readily see such images on TV anymore, or in the newspaper, but I need only drive a half mile into urban areas to view in living color the huge difference between my life and that of non-whites.

Maybe I should get my camera out.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Thursday January 20, 2005 -- 9:37:19 pm
Oh, don't get me wrong, Joseph. I'm not saying that things are absolutely wonderful and fantastic right now. I know that as a white male, I get an enormous, unfair set of breaks that people of other races don't get - and the same goes for women, of course.

FROM: ruzz [E-Mail]
DATE: Thursday January 20, 2005 -- 11:39:50 pm

FROM: Paul
DATE: Friday January 21, 2005 -- 7:45:32 am
Thanks for that insightful commentary, ruzz.

FROM: Chris
DATE: Friday January 21, 2005 -- 8:12:15 am
Do go out with your camera - I bet those pictures would be very interesting. I'm sure somebody here (myself included) would get them online if you don't have a place to do it yourself.

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Friday January 21, 2005 -- 10:46:38 am
The interesting thing is that the signs are gone and that's a good thing. But the behavior persists. I looked through more of the photos and the interesting thing is that the images are not limited to the South. There are very few from the out West where signs reflect discrimination against Native Americans, and there was another "whites only" sign way up North in Lancaster, Ohio.

Paul--I didn't get you wrong. I know you didn't mean things are rosy now. And I agree that it is scary to see social ills so readily accepted that they are codified into law. The legal backing is what allowed signs like these to be made and and the laws behind them enforceable.

But though the signs are down and laws repealed, discrimination persists.

My pet peeve, since I've moved to New England is all the finger-pointing. New Englanders still seem to be very satisfied with having won the Civil War, which they think was solely about ending slavery. Once they (I say they because this has happened quite a number of times) find out that I've lived in the Deep South for many years they usually will tell me how they went on vacation in the South and they (leaning in to whisper conspiratorially) "saw prejudice."

Now, I live in New England, and no New Englander needs to travel all the way to the South to "see prejudice." It's right here too. You know how many people I know in New England who would happily pass a law saying "No Spanish speaking allowed."

Slavery is illegal now, too--but there is still quite a bit in this country--and I'm not talking about the minimum wage. There are quite a few Chinese immigrants who are working to pay off "loans" they were given to pay for illegal transport to the US. They are paid nothing for the toil they perform here working for various Chinese enterprises. There is a huge Chinese buffet chain that I believe runs off of indentured servitude--slavery. I've seen the evidence first hand. I made the mistake of asking how much the "waiters" get paid because I wanted to know whether I should tip or not. If they got $2.10 an hour, then I would have tipped. If they got minimum wage, I probably still would have tipped, but not 15 per cent. You should have been there to see how that simple question was answered. It got very ugly quick. The short of it is, they weren't getting paid at all as far as I could tell.

The one good thing about slavery and discrimination being illegal is that all of the above can be prosecuted. Whether it will be or not, who knows?

FROM: Paul
DATE: Saturday January 22, 2005 -- 11:27:54 am
Joseph: You know how many people I know in New England who would happily pass a law saying "No Spanish speaking allowed."

I can sadly say that I know a number of people who would want that, too. Not a lot, mind you, but a number.

The issues you bring up with Chinese waiters are really eye-opening. That's what needs to be documented.

FROM: Joseph
DATE: Monday January 24, 2005 -- 3:25:43 pm
Help is on the way, little by little.

What is this then?

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