Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Government was behind Jim Crow too

Something to ponder during Black History Month: In the long dark night that followed Reconstruction, what was the engine that drove Jim Crow? Did segregationist laws codify the existing social practice, or was it the laws themselves that segregated the South?

Many people might intuitively assume that Southern racism had led to entrenched public segregation long before Southern legislatures made it mandatory. Not so. Separate facilities for blacks and whites were not routine in the South until the early 20th century. Racism there surely was, but as C. Vann Woodward observed in The Strange Career of Jim Crow, his influential history of post-Civil War segregation, the idea of formally separating the races in places of public accommodation initially struck many white Southerners as daft. In 1898, the editor of South Carolina's oldest and most conservative newspaper, the Charleston News and Courier, responded to a proposal for segregated railroad cars with what was meant to be scathing ridicule:
"If we must have Jim Crow cars on the railroads, there should be Jim Crow . . . passenger boats," he wrote. "Moreover, there should be Jim Crow waiting saloons at all stations, and Jim Crow eating houses. . . . There should be Jim Crow sections of the jury box, and a separate Jim Crow dock and witness stand in every court -- and a JimCrow Bible for colored witnesses to kiss."
Tragically, what the Charleston editor intended as mockery would soon become reality across the South -- "down to and including the Jim Crow Bible," as Woodward noted. But it wasn't an overwhelming grassroots demand for segregation that institutionalized Jim Crow. It was government, often riding roughshod over the objection of private-sector entrepreneurs.

Far from craving the authority to relegate blacks to the back of buses and streetcars, for example, the owners of municipal transportation systems actively resisted segregation. They did so not out of some lofty commitment to racial equality or integration, but for economic reasons: Segregation hurt their bottom line. For one thing, it drove up their expenses by requiring them -- as the manager of Houston's streetcar company complained to city councilors in 1904 -- "to haul around a good deal of empty space that is assigned to the colored people and not available to both races." In many cities, segregation also provoked black passengers to boycott the streetcars, cutting sharply into the companies' revenue.

In a notable study published in the Journal of Economic History in 1986, economist Jennifer Roback showed that in one Southern city after another, private transit companies tried to scuttle segregation laws or simply chose to ignore them.

In Jacksonville, Fla., a 1901 ordinance requiring black passengers to be segregated went unenforced until 1905, when the state legislature mandated segregation statewide. The new statute "was passed by the Legislature much against the will of the streetcar companies," reported the Florida Times-Union. So well-known was the companies' hostility to the law that when a group of black citizens mounted a court challenge to overturn it, their attorney felt compelled to deny being "in cahoots with the railroad lines in Jacksonville."

In Alabama, the Mobile Light and Railroad Company reacted to a Jim Crow ordinance by flatly refusing to enforce it. "Whites would not obey the law and were continually . . . refusing to sit where they were told," the company's manager told a reporter in 1902. In Memphis, the transit company defiantly pleaded guilty to violating a Tennessee segregation statute, explaining that it believed the law to be "against the wishes of the majority of its patrons." In Savannah, the local black paper noted that streetcar officials "are not anxious to carry into effect the unjust laws . . . requiring separate cars for the races," since it would put them "to extra trouble and expense."

Eventually, of course, the government got its way, as companies surrendered to pressure from city hall and the statehouse. In a victory of government regulation over the free market, Jim Crow took hold across the South, where it would cruelly hold sway for the next 60 years.

Many Americans know that it took strong government action in the 1950s and 1960s to end segregation and bring civil rights to the South. Fewer realize that it was government action that established segregation in the first place. Today, when the power of the state is being aggrandized as never before, the history of Jim Crow offers a cautionary reminder: When the political class overrides the private sector, what ensues is not necessarily an improvement. It may even be a national disgrace.


Update: An email from Chris Hoey [CHRISHOEY@aol.com]

That hit upon a sore point with me. I was the Labor and Employment Counsel for the F. W. Woolworth Co. (USA) from 1967 to 1994, and had, as part of my duties, the handling of the fall out from the infamous lunch counter sit-ins. I need not remind you of the notoriety inflicted upon Woolworth as a result of the publicity from those incidents.

The unpublicized fact in the original “sit-ins” was that Woolworth had no choice in the matter, since local laws required there be segregated lunch counters. There were counters for blacks (or “Colored” as the statutes called them in those days), but Woolworth could not have integrated facilities under threat of fines or closure. It also had to provide separate facilities for its employees, both lounges and rest rooms as well. In short, segregation was a result of fiat, and was not the policy of Woolworth.

Another fact that never reached the public was that the arrests and mishandling of the students who started the original “sit-in” in Greensboro, NC, was not as a result of Woolworth’s summoning the authorities, but were initiated by the local sheriff, who was zealously enforcing the Jim Crow laws.

So ingrained was the separate facilities mentality in our Southern employees and customers, the only way Woolworth could end the practice was to close the “Colored” restrooms, lunch counters, and employee lounges (the latter to the vigorous complaints of our black associates.)

The truth of the matter never deterred the black activist community, who kept urging the segregated counters in its Southern stores as “proof” of Woolworth’s discriminatory bias in unfounded complaints in the decades following. The real culprit was the "Jim Crow" laws mandating discrimination in facilities and accommodations.

I still get rankled when I think of the times when the Greensboro incident was thrown in my face when I was defending against discrimination charges with the EEOC, sometimes by the investigators, sometimes by the Charging Party, and sometimes by both, as proof of a systemic bias on Woolworth's part. This continued well into the 80's.

Book challenging atheism rockets up Amazon

I personally don't even think the word "God" is meaningful but I am perfectly comfortable with Christians and usually defend them. I think that anti-Christians are probably well described in the book reviewed below

Ray Comfort's new book debunking atheism, "You Can Lead an Atheist to Evidence but You Can't Make Him Think," has rocketed up the Amazon.com rankings on its first day of release, moving from No. 69,572 to No. 38 in 24 hours. The book is sure to push the buttons of atheists, with Comfort opining that God deniers actually know they are wrong. The book, released on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, contends atheists hate God because he does exist. "Atheists don't hate fairies, leprechauns, or unicorns because they don't exist," writes Comfort. "It is impossible to hate something that doesn't exist. And that makes the point."

The book was No. 1 in both atheism and apologetics categories under religion. It ranked No. 2 in spirituality and No. 6 in Christianity. "We don't have to prove that God exists to the professing atheist," he writes. "This is because he intuitively knows that He exists. Every person has a God-given conscience. The Bible tells us that this is the 'work of the law written on their hearts.' Just as every sane human being knows that it's wrong to lie, steal, kill and commit adultery, he knows that God should be first in his life."

Comfort's new release, published by WND Books, a division of WorldNetDaily.com, was standing at No. 69,572 on Amazon last night just before its official release. By midnight, Eastern Time, it was at 28,987. Eight hours later it was at No. 7,855, and it was at No. 410 before mid-day.

Comfort, author of dozens of books and co-host of the award-winning TV show, "The Way of the Master" with Kirk Cameron, star of the hit movie "Fireproof," uses a question-and-answer format to address issues raise by those still faithful to Darwin's beliefs: that of a Creation without a Creator. "Ray Comfort has once again laid hold of the greatest power on earth, the power of the Gospel," R.C. Sproul Jr. said of the book. "Here he brings that power to bear, makes that light to shine in the darkest corners of our times, among fools. He proclaims with fidelity and winsomeness, remembering that such were once we, walking in the paths of darkness."


The firing of Carol Thatcher, and why liberals don't believe in tolerance

One of the dangers in studying history is that it can lead us to believe that the past is a foreign country. When we think of East Germany or the Soviet Union - totalitarian states famous for networks of informers whose tip-offs could ruin lives - we invariably assume they were so culturally different from us that their abuses seem incomprehensible. But one of the advantages in studying the present is precisely that it helps us understand how other countries made their mistakes.

Our country is a long way from being an informer state such as those that existed behind the Iron Curtain. But the fact that Carol Thatcher was sacked by the BBC for an offensive remark made in private sets a dangerous precedent that recalls the denunciation society of East Germany. Thatcher is not alone. Geert Wilders, a Dutch MP, was refused entry to Britain last Thursday on the grounds that his anti-Muslim opinions are too dangerous to be expressed here. Somerset nurse Caroline Petrie was temporarily suspended for offering to pray for a patient. Last year a couple were prevented from fostering children because as Christians they disapprove of homosexuality. Even Prince Harry has been ordered to attend a 'diversity awareness' course. The Equality And Diversity Code Of Practice has now penetrated into every sphere of public life.

All these cases have one key element in common - an element they share with totalitarianism: they have been supported by people who think of themselves as progressives. Ever since the French revolutionaries proclaimed 'no liberty for the enemies of liberty' - and used that slogan to justify genocide - it has been self-consciously progressive regimes, not conservative ones, that have evolved into totalitarianism.

We think of communism now as a gerontocracy - government by old people - which was as socially reactionary as it was economically backward. That is not how communists saw themselves. They believed they were progressive radicals. Like today's liberals, they loathed colonial oppression, imperialism and nationalism. The reason states such as East Germany were able to set up such terrifying informer networks was that the people running them believed their model of society was threatened if people did not positively affirm their belief in it. And it was in the name of policing speech that the Stasi tried to police thought itself.

Progressivism was even the ideology of the Nazis. They were moved to commit their worst atrocities by what Winston Churchill called 'the lights of perverted science'.

In Britain, multiculturalism has become an ideology similar to these other progressive ideologies that seek to change the way things and people are. Progressives think instinctive forms of behaviour are bad because they have not been designed by a process of rational thought or implemented by the self-appointed guardians of progress. Progressives think of politics as a constant struggle - usually against an unenlightened populace. They always have to be 'moving forward', pushing the people further to make them conform to their ideas.

This is why the totalitarianism in Eastern Europe was set up incrementally and over time - and why it is important to be aware the same thing could happen here. Starting with good ideas about ending oppression, communist regimes in Eastern Europe were not totalitarian at first. It took decades before the apparatus of state terror was set up. Although the German Democratic Republic was founded in 1949, the Berlin Wall was not built until 1962.

In Britain, a similar pattern is emerging. The 'diversity' project constantly demands new capitulations from the conservatively minded. The idea of tolerance has been abused and turned into the pretext for an intrusive threat to people's livelihoods and liberty. It has been transformed into the ideology of 'multiculturalism' that demands Britain renounce all traditions in favour of those of newcomers. You can now lose your job if you do not share this ideology - if you do not think in the right way.

Many in Britain have protested at these attempts to police private opinions and free speech. Our instincts are still sound - and progressives can't stand that. Public outrage has not changed the fact of Carol Thatcher's dismissal, so a dangerous precedent has been set. People are now afraid about what they say in the privacy of their own homes, in emails or on the phone.

Obviously, liberalism is preferable as an ideology to communism or fascism. But it has similar contradictions and totalitarian tendencies. Multiculturalists may say you cannot impose your views on others, but they are frighteningly good at imposing theirs on all of us. British liberals claim to hate prejudice: in fact they have nothing but snobbish contempt for large swathes of the population, particularly those who live outside big cities and are over the age of 30. Public moralising has become the hallmark of those who otherwise excoriate old-fashioned morals.

Although hypocritical themselves, liberals demand 'sincerity' from their enemies, for instance when someone is forced to make a public apology. Ultimately this is all gesture politics, but it is a sign of the decadence of a society if it is forced to become obsessed with signals that have little to do with reality.

In that respect, too, modern liberalism is distinctly Soviet, demanding as it does public assent to a series of propagandistic ideals, however absurd. The sooner we realise the greatest virtues in politics are prudence, realism and honesty, the better.


The most politically incorrect man in the world?

The Top Gear live stage show in Sydney last week caused waves in Britain that we barely noticed. Iconic British host Jeremy Clarkson had barely alighted from his plane when he called his prime minister, Gordon Brown, a "one-eyed Scottish idiot". Since Brown does have only one eye, disabled groups in Britain were outraged, as were Scots, Labour supporters and idiots. Clarkson, 48, was lambasted in front-page stories in his homeland until he apologised - which he did, to all but the idiots.

For Australian audiences who packed the Acer Arena from last Thursday for 10 live performances of the top-rating SBS show, such Clarkson irreverence rated a chuckle rather than a scolding. Such is the relaxed Australian attitude to politician abuse, he could have said whatever he liked about Kevin Rudd and no one would have minded.

But the furore illustrates what is the key to Top Gear's success: Clarkson's brazen political incorrectness. He will bag Audis with one breath and greenies with the next. He has no sacred cows. The British version of Top Gear, which attracts as many as 1million Australian viewers each week, is an exuberant thumbing of noses at climate alarmists and safety Nazis. It is a relief valve from a politically correct world full of admonitions and tongue-biting. Just when cars were being targeted as dangerous, polluting anachronisms, Top Gear became one of the world's most popular television shows. Women make up more than 40 per cent of its audience.

Paradoxically, as environmental alarmism grows, so too does our attachment to cars, with Top Gear's popularity one indication. We've just had Clint Eastwood's movie Gran Torino, about a retired auto-worker and his most precious possession - his red 1972 muscle car, the Ford Gran Torino. Next month we will have the ultimate car lovers' movie, Eric Bana's Love The Beast, starring his red Ford GT Falcon Coupe. A documentary charting Bana's 25-year love affair with his car, it also features his three best friends, Jay Leno, Dr Phil and, of course, Jeremy Clarkson.

Apart from great cars, Top Gear's appeal is about three middle-aged men having unrestrained blokey fun, and insulting each other and everyone else, in classic pommy style. Clarkson once had a custard pie thrown in his face by green protesters; his advice to cyclists was: "Do not cruise through red lights. Because if I'm coming the other way, I will run you down, for fun."

At his Sydney press conference last week he slammed environmentalist critics of the show. "We don't have a carbon footprint. That's because we drive everywhere." And he claimed Britain's current cold snap was caused by "too many green people in the world . not buying enough Range Rovers to warm it up."

Then he insulted his British studio audiences of his Top Gear live show: "You should see some of the apes that turn up." He obviously hasn't been to a WWF wrestling match. It was quite a different crowd last Friday at the ACER Arena from the one I got to know a little too well when my sons were wrestling fanatics. Fewer tattoos, shorter hair, no John Cena T-shirts. Top Gear drew families from middle Australia, in Holdens and Fords, Audis and Subarus. The most flamboyant young men wore Holden jackets or T-shirts with such slogans as "Own the road" and "I am the Stig" - in reference to Top Gear's test driver.

The live show came to Sydney on the last part of its tour to South Africa, Hong Kong and New Zealand, "a tour of countries we used to own," said Clarkson, before joking about his first sightseeing adventure in Sydney last week. "Coogee Bay Hotel - chocolate chip heaven", referring to last year's faeces in the ice-cream scandal. "I'm sure there was sweet corn in there," quipped his sidekick Richard Hammond.

There were brunettes in tight red jumpsuits, and French stunt motorcyclists performing death-defying feats inside a giant mesh sphere which Clarkson called "the colander of death". "They're only French," said Clarkson. "If something goes wrong it will just be corned beef," said Hammond.

There was also ritual audience humiliation. Clarkson singled out one hapless man and called him a "cock" for owning an Audi and a "poor cock" because it was an A6. "You can tell he's an Audi driver because he's wearing a branded shirt." The audience squirmed as the man, sitting with his young son, turned beetroot red with embarrassment. We mightn't care about politicians but perhaps British schoolyard bullying of the type Clarkson practises isn't enjoyed in Australia. And it's just as well the audience didn't know some of the cars were fakes. Car soccer went down rather better, with six little cars pushing a giant inflatable soccer ball around the stadium, with only one fender bender and many close misses in a display of superb stunt driving.

There is something about Top Gear's unabashed celebration of human ingenuity, technological precision, speed, snazzy styling, comfort and independence that ignites the passions of car fans and car agnostics alike. Killjoy car-haters: eat your hearts out.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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