Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Talking Points #6 "One more River to Cross" -- Recognizing the Real Injury in Brown By: Charles Lawrence

Lawrence argues that there will always be "one more river to cross" for Blacks in America because Blacks were labeled as an inferior race and that label has yet to be removed. He also argues The Brown v. Board of Education event should be judged on where it has left us.

1. "Woodward has called "Jim Crow" laws the "public symbols and constant reminders" of the inferior position of blacks."

I looked up Jim Crow laws on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Crow_laws to get a better understanding of what Jim Crow laws were and how they relate to Lawrence.

"The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws in the United States enacted between 1876 and 1965. They mandated de jure segregation in all public facilities, with a "separate but equal" status for black Americans and members of other non-white racial groups.
Some examples of Jim Crow laws are the segregation of public schools, public places and public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms and restaurants for whites and blacks. The U.S. military was also segregated. These Jim Crow Laws were separate from the 1800-66 Black Codes, which had also restricted the civil rights and civil liberties of African Americans. State-sponsored school segregation was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education. Generally, the remaining Jim Crow laws were overruled by the Civil Rights Act of 1964[1] and the Voting Rights Act of 1965."

So, these laws were a major player and had a huge resposibility in labeling Blacks as an inferior race when they labeled Blacks "separate but equal." Jim Crow laws that allowed segegated restrooms and restaurants were the public symbols and constant reminders of their inferior status. Even in the military, there was segregation. Because of these laws, everywhere one looked, there was segregation. By 1954, Brown v Board of Education declared school segregation unconstitutional. By 1964, the remaining Jim Crow laws were overruled. During the Supreme Courts rulings to end segregation, did they really think that this would "solve everything?" Even today there is always "One more river to cross." Today we have a Black president and there is still "One more river to cross" and we are working on how to cross it when we study Johnson's piece on "saying the words" and Holder's speech about talking more about race. According to Lawrence, we need to remove the label of inferiority to "solve everything."

2. "Once it is understood that the injury results from the existence of the label of inferiority, it becomes clear that the cure must involve the removal of that label. The mere placement of black and white children in the same school does not remove the brand imprinted by years of segragation."

According to Lawrence, the problem and cure is clear. The problem is the label and the cure is the removal of that label. Having a label of inferiority is a very dangerous thing. I learned in my Social Work classes about a concept about Blaming the Victim. Blaming the Victim helped me understand that once you have a label, you may have a target. Now when things go wrong, people have a group of people to take out any anger and frustration on. For example, long before the Holocaust, the Jews were labeled as inferior. This is an extreme case, but, it is similar in categorizing a group of people into being inferior and all the terrible things that can become of it. Also, when you have Jim Crow laws as constant reminders of segragation and the inferiority of Blacks, their label is constantly negatively reinforced with terrible and disgusting things. So, removal of this label needs to be a top priority. So, a quick fix solution of throwing a bunch of balck and white children together in schools is a step in the right direction, but a very small step because it does not really do anything. There are still years of tensions between these kids who hate each other and this act of desegregating schools is not going to change that.

3. "Instead of taking judicial cognizance of the fact that the maifest purpose of segregation was to designate blacks as inferior, holding such a purpose constitutionally impermissible, the Court chose to focus upon the effect of school segregation."

Lawrence is arguing that the Supreme Court is merely taking one thing away from the problem and that will still hold Blacks inferior. Why not take away the label that designates Blacks as inferior at this time? What is really the point in just desegregating schools if you still constitutionally hold that Blacks are inferior? I hear Lawrence's argument, but disagree. I think such an important case needed a step down process in order for it to be effective. I feel that if all of a sudden, schools were desgregated and Blacks had all the same rights as Whites, it may not have worked like it has worked. People need time for things to change and when you change one thing at a time over a period of time it holds better. I hear Lawrence in saying that "There is always one more river to cross." If we could fix the problem all at once, I'm sure it would have been fixed. And anyway, how exactly do you constitutionally take away someone's label? In an issue as complicated as this, there needs to be plenty of time to make such drastic changes.

This piece was difficult to read and comprehend compared to other readings. I feel like when we go over it in class things will shape up a little better. I felt like during his argument, I agreed and disagreed at different things he said. However, at the same time, I may not have understood his exact intentions when he wrote something and that may be why i disagreed with it. What I liked the most about this piece was how he argues about something to end racism. The label is what separates us and that is the real issue. He is arguing for an America where one day a white person may look at a Black person or vice versa and not see the label because we have been working to get rid of it for good.

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