In the 1950s, segregation was the law of the land. It was TOTALLY accepted (by most white people, at least). Black people, from everything I’ve read, were quite a lot less happy about this. Why? Well, let’s put ourselves in their place, as best we can, for a moment:
- Driving? Get pulled over for no particular reason. The police office will likely treat you like a criminal, and you’ll be lucky to be let go with a ticket.
- Minding your business? You could get slapped for anything so minor as bumping into someone else. If you retaliate you’ll be beaten and/or arrested.
- Riding the bus? Pay up front, get out, walk to the back door, and enter that way (if the bus driver hasn’t driven off without you). Make sure you sit in one of YOUR rows, unless there are people from THEIR group that need those seats. Then you can stand.
- Have kids? They get to go to the other schools. The white folks will shake their head and wonder why on earth you’re still unhappy. After all, your kids school is at least as good as their kids’ school, now that the government has mandated that the facilities have to be equal. Just, be sure you teach your kids the proper respect for the white kids, okay? Or else we will. Oh, and your kids better not even THINK about playing with their kids.
I can barely begin to understand the rage, the shame, the injustice of having to live like this…and this is the littlest sampling of a ridiculous time.
Go and read up about the Montgomery bus boycott – arguably the first big incident* that kicked off the civil rights movement.
So why are we reading about this now?
Most folk in America know (now) that something’s wrong. A lot of somethings are wrong. Back in the 50s, that feeling was all about civil rights.
It is today, too. But now we’re all in varying degrees of trouble. Black Lives Matter, Occupy, immigrant deportation, Muslim registry, government surveillance, Guantanimo, women’s health issues, LGBTQ equality, and on and on and on.
It’s the fight of the new century: Tyranny vs American Civil Rights. One of the biggest things we must do is to educate ourselves.
So, read. It just takes a few minutes.
*Listen, I am SO not a civil rights scholar. I’m an ordinary citizen, doing my thing and working my job and raising my kids. I’m inevitably going to get some of this stuff wrong. But that’s part of the point of 5 Minute Activist: ordinary citizens should educate ourselves. We should act. We don’t have to be experts; we have to get involved and do our best.