Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ghosts of Jim Crow... Alive!

So far I'm currently 50% in this book and have just reached Part II in the novel Ghosts of Jim Crow by F. Michael Higginbotham.  The beginning starts off with Higginbotham recounting his younger years and some of the racial injustices that stood out in his life. He grew up in an upper-class family and went to really good schools but still endured racism, albeit different than blacks from a different social class, but still so overt that he became at one point integration fatigued. I really like that expression "integration fatigue". I was not raised in a wealthy home but my upbringing in the suburbs, and some twenty years later, helps me to understand his plight.

Honestly I don't know where I should begin with describing this book. In Part I of the book, Higginbotham goes over legal precedent that made slavery legal and how law was used to dehumanize blacks as well as elevate whites becoming the main fuel in black inferiority and white superiority. These structural policies are used to promote inequality and ultimately damage any hopes of becoming a society free of racism or bias. He mentions laws that forbade slaves to read therefore making them appear to be uncivilized or dumb. The laws that gave slave owners the right to punish slaves as they please even up to killing them, also further exacerbates the idea of white superiority and black victimization. The next step in the legal process was the emancipation of slavery which led to a lot of new laws put in place to keep the playing fields for whites and blacks imbalanced and uneven.

Higginbotham brings us next to the laws that which the book is named for: Jim Crow Laws. Here Higginbotham shows how these laws not only separate blacks and whites, but does it in a way that blacks would still feel inferior even if they were well off.  In the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the decision to uphold the constitutionality of "seperate but equal" in public facilities continued in the way of promoting black inferiority. Many of the public places labeled as okay to use for blacks were in disrepair, ill-funded,  and not up to same standards as white's only public places. This case upheld the states "seperate but equal" policies but completely ignored the fact that the states failed to make anything equal. Plessy v. Ferguson ushered in the Reconstruction Era and led the way for future and further segregation laws.

This same approach with being seperate but very clearly unequal translates the same with regard to education and housing. Many blacks were placed into schools that did not have adequate materials nor teachers able to teach them adequately. This helps to further blacks being at a disparate level compared to whites. Blacks are viewed as dumb or lazy and unable to maintain control of their lives because of laws passed during the Jim Crow Era. Underfunded schools lead to lower education levels. Inabilities to get employment affects being able to obtain a loan for property. I mention these because they are among the many prejudices that black people face today. Sadly, Brown v. Board of Education, only shifted the playing fields slightly.

There is so much I want to discuss and there is so much to be learned from this book. Although the stories of inequalities are not new to Americans, the idea that we haven't moved as far along as we can by now is what is most sad. There are still ghosts of Jim Crow that linger in a way that place blacks at a disadvantage and further fuel the idea of white superiority. The fact that our President is black has not done enough especially when there are still other public officials who are interested in calling him lazy, labeling him the welfare president, or a schuck-and-jive-er. Although much racism is not as overt as it was only 60 years ago, the rate of imbalance between the two races are still staggering.  I look forward to finishing this novel by tomorrow and posting my thoughts on it there. Until then... Let's Read.

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