Some photos by Gordon Parks from 1956:
Franklin Eugene McCain died two days ago. McCain and three others, now known as the “Greensboro Four,” are credited with initiating the sit-in movement when they sat down at the F. W. Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro on February 1, 1960 and requested service.
three weeks after Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus abruptly derailed school desegregation in September 1957. Confident that the Negroes would be kept out by the cordon of Arkansas National Guardsmen surrounding the school, crowds of angry whites—many having no connection to the school or to Little Rock—arrived every morning to demonstrate their disapproval of integration. They watched white students enter the school and kept a watchful eye to make sure black students, though backed by a federal court order allowing them in, didn’t try to sneak in. White reporters and cameramen faced relentless heckling, physical taunts and spittle. Black reporters faced worse. The story had drawn many of the most experienced journalists in the black press, reporters who had braved the back roads of the South and pioneered civil rights coverage long before it caught on with the mainstream white press. But as they tried to penetrate the scene around the high school, they met scorn and stonewalling as National Guardsmen quickly moved them off the premises and away from the story.
On the warm Monday morning of Sept. 23, the integration stalemate broke and the story changed. The National Guard, following a federal court edict, had withdrawn. The white crowds stayed, however, leaving the school’s grounds and perimeter beyond the control of authorities. Black students on their way to the school in a station wagon were heading into an unpredictable mob scene.
At the same time, in a separate car, intent on witnessing and covering the moment firsthand, were four seasoned black newsmen. Their leader was the tall, dark-skinned and serious L. Alex Wilson, the editor and general manager of the Tri-State Defender of Memphis, Tennessee—the newspaper that was the southern outpost of the Chicago Defender, one of the foremost black newspapers in the United States. (Continue reading).
“Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant, and this white waitress came up to me and said: ‘We don’t serve colored people here.’ I said: ‘That’s all right, I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.’ “ Dick Gregory
More political jokes.
I’ll never be able to understand how this scene could have been horrifying to anyone:
And this image shows the absurdness of segregation:
Is this de facto segregation? I couldn’t find anything about the context of the photo:
And this is just one of the sexiest images ever:
If you look carefully at the top left of this image, you’ll see a fellow who doesn’t know his place:
South-Carolina is now the only US State where HIV-positive prisoners are segregated in separate housing units with unequal program opportunities, inferior mental health care and fewer work options.
There’s absolutely no reason to do that, unless you want to maintain the reign of sexual terror that is still widespread in US prisons. AIDS is almost exclusively transmitted by way of sexual intercourse and needles. Segregating HIV-positive prisoners makes it easier for prison rapists to pursue their hobby. If you don’t know who’s positive and who’s not, you’ll think twice about raping someone. In the “HIV wards”, since they contain only HIV-positive prisoners, there’s also no more reason to refrain from rape.
Things like this make it hard to believe that legislators and prison authorities are not intent on making prison as horrible as possible.
The University of Colorado caved to the gun lobby and created gun-friendly dorms. At the present, there are floors that are gun-friendly. A dorm for the armed is opening in 2014. But the school is disturbed that not a single person has actually expressed any interest in living in the gun zone. Is it because even students who own guns think it might not be an awesome idea to be around drunken armed college students? Nope. It’s liberal segregation:
David Burnett, a representative of Students for Concealed Carry on campus, told the Denver Post that students who met all legal requirements for concealed-carry shouldn’t have to move into segregated dorms. “You’ve proven you’re legally, responsibly and morally able to carry, then the college comes back and tells you you’ve got to move. What would you do?” (source)
were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 and following years to test the United States Supreme Court decisions Boynton v. Virginia (1960) and Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia (1946). …
Boynton outlawed racial segregation in the restaurants and waiting rooms in terminals serving buses that crossed state lines. Five years prior to the Boynton ruling, the Interstate Commerce Commission had issued a ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company that had explicitly denounced the Plessy v. Ferguson doctrine of separate but equal in interstate bus travel. The ICC failed to enforce its ruling, and Jim Crow travel laws remained in force throughout the South.
The Freedom Riders challenged this status quo by riding various forms of public transportation in the South to challenge local laws or customs that enforced segregation. The Freedom Rides, and the violent reactions they provoked, bolstered the credibility of the American Civil Rights Movement. They called national attention to the disregard for the federal law and the local violence used to enforce segregation in the southern United States. Police arrested riders for trespassing, unlawful assembly, and violating state and local Jim Crow laws, along with other alleged offenses, but they often let white mobs attack them without intervention. (source)
At 15 years of age, on September 1957, Dorothy Counts
was one of the first black students admitted to the Harry Harding High School, in Charlotte, North Carolina. After four days of harassment that threatened her safety, her parents forced her to withdraw from the school. …
The harassment started when the wife of John Z. Warlick, the leader of the White Citizens Council, urged the boys to “keep her out” and at the same time, implored the girls to spit on her, saying, “spit on her, girls, spit on her.” Dorothy walked by without reacting, but told the press that many people threw rocks at her—most of which landed in front of her feet—and that many spat on her back. More abuse followed that day. She had trash thrown at her while eating her dinner and the teachers ignored her. The following day, she befriended two white girls, but they soon drew back because of harassment from other classmates. Her family received threatening phone calls. (source)
Residential segregation can be the outcome of racial animus or racial prejudice, for example when whites decide that they don’t want to live near blacks for no other reason than race. In that case, segregation is a symptom of racism and is evidently wrong. What to do about it is less clear: forcing people to live somewhere is also wrong.
But residential segregation can also result from less prejudiced motives, sometimes even from rational ones: whites may be relatively wealthy and therefore decide that they prefer to live in a nice suburb. Automatically, they end up together with other whites. (Perhaps the wealth disparity has something to do with racism, but not the segregation itself). Yet, even in that case, segregation has harmful consequences and we will have to do something about it.
Residential segregation is harmful in several ways. When relatively wealthy whites move en masse to the suburbs, the relatively poor blacks who stay in the inner cities find themselves in an increasingly impoverished area. Shops will disappear; house prices will fall and will put pressure on people’s assets, etc. The reduced tax base will make it harder for the local government to fund high quality public goods. As a result, the quality of education and other public services will drop, which will start a vicious circle of poverty.
Physical segregation of races will reduce self-esteem and self-confidence among the members of the group that is worse off after segregation. It may also foster racial animus against those who are better off. And, finally, so-called membership poverty will kick in. People will see a reduction in the number of role models, and the remaining role models will by definition be relatively poor and hence not always the ones providing the most beneficial inspiration. Criminal role models also become more prominent, as the simple arithmetical result of the disappearance of the middle class. Furthermore, when people witness high rates of failure among group members, this will also negatively affect their aspirations and effort, which in turn will make a negative economic logic take root: for example, when few group members start businesses, few other members will have the opportunity to work for them or trade with them.
However, residential segregation is not entirely negative for the poor minorities remaining in the inner cities. As house prices in the cities fall, relatively poor blacks are more likely to become homeowners. However, that’s a small silver lining to an enormous black cloud.
Poverty kills, it seems. As if it’s not bad enough in itself. Although death is often multicausal, a study has tried to estimate in how many cases poverty is a contributing factor:
For 2000, the study attributed 176,000 deaths to racial segregation and 133,000 to individual poverty. The numbers are substantial. For example, looking at direct causes of death, 119,000 people in the United States die from accidents each year, and 156,000 from lung cancer.
How does the causal chain operate? Poverty contributes to poor health, in different ways:
More human rights facts here.
Apartheid in South Africa was a system of legal racial segregation enforced by the National Party government in South Africa between 1948 and 1994, under which the rights of the majority non-white inhabitants of South Africa were curtailed and minority rule by white people was maintained. Racial segregation in South Africa began in colonial times, but apartheid as an official policy was introduced following the general election of 1948. New legislation classified inhabitants into racial groups (“black”, “white”, “colored”, and “Indian”), and residential areas were segregated, sometimes by means of forced removals. From 1958, black people were deprived of their citizenship, legally becoming citizens of one of ten tribally based self-governing homelands called bantustans, four of which became nominally independent states. The government segregated education, medical care, and other public services, and provided black people with services inferior to those of white people.
Apartheid sparked significant internal resistance and violence as well as a long trade embargo against South Africa. A series of popular uprisings and protests were met with the banning of opposition and imprisoning of anti-apartheid leaders. As unrest spread and became more violent, state organizations responded with increasing repression and state-sponsored violence.
Reforms to apartheid in the 1980s failed to quell the mounting opposition, and in 1990 President Frederik Willem de Klerk began negotiations to end apartheid, culminating in multi-racial democratic elections in 1994, which were won by the African National Congress under Nelson Mandela.
Let me try out a few possible answers to the question in the title of this post:
So then, why is discrimination wrong? Discrimination is wrong because it is a denial of rights. Not all denials of rights are discrimination – for example I imagine that Kim Jong Il denies the rights of all North Koreans consistently without discrimination. But discrimination is a denial of rights, and a denial of a particular type, namely the unequal denial of rights.
But not every case of unequal denial of rights is a case of discrimination. For instance, if some people in police custody are beaten up and others aren’t that’s not necessarily discrimination. Discrimination is the unequal denial of the rights of members of a socially salient group, and for no other reason than their membership of that group. It must be a socially salient group, i.e. a group that is an important and stable distinction in society, not a fleeting and inconsequential identity such as the group of people with blue eyes or people of the age of 40. Those groups aren’t salient and hence won’t be discriminated.
So, discrimination occurs when rights are granted to some and taken away from others, for no other reason than their membership of a socially salient group.
What exactly is a denial of rights? It’s an action (or a law, a custom etc.) that makes it impossible or very difficult to exercise one’s rights. That means that there won’t be discrimination if for example one lonely racist shop owner refuses to service blacks. Those blacks can easily exercise their rights by avoiding the racist shop. Only if the number of such cases is high and those cases occur systematically will there be denial of rights and hence discrimination. The policy of an army to reject homosexuals is discrimination because homosexuals can’t simply go to another army to serve their country. Racial discrimination at the time of Jim Crow and segregation was real discrimination because it substantially reduced the options of blacks who could not exercise their rights elsewhere.
If we revisit some of the examples given above we can see that they are not necessarily cases of discrimination as it is defined here. Giving people low grades or low salaries can be justified if it’s done for good reasons, i.e. not simply because of people’s membership of groups. But even if it’s done because of membership, it’s not discrimination if it’s isolated and if people can easily go elsewhere for their proper grades or salaries. Discrimination isn’t just about unequal treatment but also about options. Not all unequal treatment is discrimination. It’s discrimination when it also takes away the rights of those treated unequally. And their rights are taken away, not when there’s a single instance of unequal treatment based on group membership, but when there are many such instances and people can’t easily exercise their rights elsewhere. Their rights in these examples are the right to education and the right to fair wages. The same is true in the case of the sole racist member of a tolerant society refusing to eat at a restaurant owned by an African American. The restaurant owner isn’t denied his right to sell his food because one guy refuses to eat there.
Segregation comes in many forms: there can be segregation in schools, at work, in the places people live, in restaurants etc. In U.S. history, it has often been racial segregation, but there is also something like gender segregation, wealth segregation etc., and often these types overlap. Segregation can be the forced and legal separation of “different kinds of humans” into different groups and the illegality of interaction or contact. Jim Crow laws, laws regarding interracial marriage etc. have in the past enforced segregation. But even when it’s illegal it can be maintained by way of prejudice, discrimination, selective rental behavior or employment decisions, vigilante violence (e.g. lynching), intimidation, ghettoization etc. Below I focus on non-legally enforced residential segregation in present-day U.S.
Over the 20th century, the residential patterns of US households became increasingly divided by race. From 1940 to 2000, the share of the metropolitan white population who lived in the suburban ring increased from 38% to 74%, whereas, even by 2000, over 60% of the black metropolitan population remained in central cities. (source)
In the hundred largest metropolitan areas, where most whites and blacks live,
the exposure of the average white person to black people has risen by two percentage points, from 5.5 percent in 1980 to 7.6 percent today.
The decline of isolation among African-Americans since 1980 has been overwhelmingly due to the growth of Latino populations in black neighborhoods. The presence of Latinos in black neighborhoods has doubled since 1980, from 8.2 to 16.4 percent. Similarly, the declining homogeneity of white neighborhoods does not reflect the long-sought residential integration of whites and blacks, but instead the influx of Latinos into white neighborhoods. In 1980 Latinos were 5.5 percent of residents in majority-white neighborhoods. Today they are 11.2 percent. (source)
These two maps show current residential segregation in New York and Chicago respectively:
Another approach to residential segregation is in the map below:
Where people decide to live is obviously their free choice and I don’t think anybody seriously defends forced relocation as a solution to residential segregation. However, if residential segregation is the result, not of free choice but of racial poverty, conscious or unconscious discrimination by landlords or employers or any other type of racial bias, then it is a problem. However, rather than trying to solve this problem directly, one should look at the underlying causes of residential segregation and do something about those.
If people tend to live, work, eat or go to school together with other members of their group – race, gender etc. – then we shouldn’t automatically assume that this is caused by discrimination, forced separation, restrictions on movement or choice of residence, or other kinds of human rights violations. It can be their free choice. However, if it’s not, then we usually call it segregation and we believe it’s a moral wrong that should be corrected. People have a right to live where they want, go to school where they want, and move freely about (with some restrictions necessary to protect the property rights and the freedom of association of others). If they are prohibited from doing so, either by law (e.g. Jim Crow) or by social pressure (e.g. discrimination by landlords or employers), then government policy and legislation should step in in order to better protect people’s rights. Forced desegregation is then an option, and this can take various forms, such as anti-discrimination legislation in employment and rent, forced integration of schools, busing, zoning laws, subsidized housing etc.
There’s also some room for intervention when segregation is not the result of conscious, unconscious, legal or social discrimination. For example, poor people tend to be segregated in poor districts, not because other people make it impossible for them to live elsewhere but because their poverty condemns them to certain residential areas. The same is true for schooling. In order to avoid poverty traps or membership poverty, it’s better to do something about that as well.
In all such cases, the solution should not necessarily be found in physical desegregation, i.e. forcibly moving people about. Perhaps the underlying causes of segregation, rather than segregation itself, should be tackled. For example, rather than moving poor children to better schools or poor families to better, subsidized housing, perhaps we should focus on their poverty directly.
However, before deciding what to do about segregation, we have to know its extent. Is it a big problem, or a minor one? How does it evolve? Is it getting better? How segregated are residential areas, schools, workplaces etc.? And to what extent is this segregation involuntary? The latter question is a hard one, but the others can be answered. There are several methods for measuring different kinds of segregation. The most popular measure of residential segregation is undoubtedly the so-called index of dissimilarity. If you have a city, for example, that is divide into N districts (or sections, census tracts or whatever), the dissimilarity index measures the percentage of a group’s population that would have to change districts for each district to have the same percentage of that group as the whole city. Formally:
Where bi is the number of blacks in district i, B is the number of blacks in the city as a whole, wi is the number of whites in district i, and W is the number of whites in the city as a whole. This formula gives you a number between 0 and 1, 0 for no segregation and 1 for complete segregation (similar to the Gini coefficient).
The dissimilarity index is not perfect, mainly because it depends on the sometimes arbitrary way in which cities are divided into districts or sections. Which means that modifying city partitions can influence levels of “segregation”, which is not something we want. Take this extreme example:
The image shows the same city twice, with two different partitions, A and B situation. No one has moved residency between situations A and B, but the district boundaries have been altered radically. In situation A with the districts drawn vertically, there is no segregation (dissimilarity index of 0). But in situation B, with the districts drawn horizontally, there is complete segregation (index = 1), although no one has physically moved. That’s why other, complementary measures are probably necessary for correct information about levels of segregation. Some of those measures are proposed here and here.
More collections of human rights images are here.
In a recent court case in the US, a Christian student group objected to a university decision to withdraw recognition of the group. This withdrawal was justified by the university on the basis of the group’s discrimination of gays. Gays can only join the group when they “repent”. This policy by the group was deemed discriminatory by the university and in violation of its anti-discrimination policy. Withdrawal of recognition means that the group loses some subsidies and access to university resources, not that it has to cease to exist.
The group claimed that the university decision violated it’s freedom of association and freedom of religion. It also claimed that the university’s non-discrimination policy backfired and in fact created a new instance of discrimination, namely discrimination based on religion (because the group felt singled out; a Hispanic group excluding non-Hispanics did not suffer the same fate). (More on self-defeating human rights policies here). The university contested this reasoning, claiming that the group was free to organize its activities elsewhere.
In my opinion, the Christian group is clearly bigoted and deserves condemnation for that, but groups should be free to decide who can and cannot become a member. And so there’s nothing wrong, in principle, with Christian groups banning gays. Forcing a group to accept members who violate the group’s fundamental rules and principles would empty freedom of association of any content because it would lead to the dissipation of the group’s identity. There is no group without identity, and hence no freedom of association without identity. And identity by definition means exclusion. Communist groups that are forced to accept capitalist members, or neo-Nazi groups that are forced to accept Jews, cease to exist as coherent groups. In case of religious groups, this would also violate the groups’ freedom of religion.
Also, the claim by gays that they are discriminated is weakened by the fact that they have numerous alternatives. It’s not like their non-membership of the Christian group produces a lot of harm to them, in terms of diminished choices, missed opportunities, lost resources etc.
An aside: I always fail to understand why people would want to join groups where they are manifestly unwelcome, except perhaps to cause a stir. Of course, this is no argument in favor or against any of the previous claims, except perhaps a pragmatic argument against the university’s position: if indeed gays will not join the anti-gay Christian group because they don’t have an incentive to associate with people who are hostile, then there’s no reason for the university to move against the group, since no discrimination will occur.
How is this different from what libertarians often claim about private discrimination? (Rand Paul for example recently claimed that the Civil Rights Act should not make “private segregation” illegal and should not force white restaurant owners to accept black customers). The difference is that segregation and Jim Crow were so widespread that blacks had considerably fewer options and suffered considerable disadvantage. The same isn’t true of gays on campus: there are enough associations that accept them. Hence, the discrimination that is imposed by the Christian group is real but not consequential enough to warrant a limitation of its freedom of association or religion.
Another argument in favor of the Christian group: non-discrimination policies have the laudable goal of promoting diversity and allowing every member of society to have the same options and choices. But how do you promote diversity if you don’t allow groups to have a coherent identity? And how do you promote options when you make it impossible for Christians to join a “truly” Christian group?
All this doesn’t mean that there will never be cases in which actions against groups are justified. In some instances, the demands of non-discrimination will outweigh the rights to freedom of association and religion. See here and here for more information on the need to balance different rights against each other.
Here‘s a post on a similar case, involving a British racist party being forced to accept non-white members.
Prominent libertarian politician Rand Paul recently caused a stir by claiming that he didn’t support parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically the parts applying non-discrimination legislation to private businesses. Like most libertarians, he believes that if private restaurant owners, for example, want to prevent blacks from eating there, then that’s their right. Similarly, banks should be allowed not to lend to blacks, real-estate agents not to sell to blacks, private homeowner groups should be able to band together and keep out blacks etc. Same when the targets are Jews, gays, immigrants and so on.
The standard libertarian position is that only government enforced or government protected discrimination is wrong. Private actors should be allowed to discriminate. A private restaurant owner for instance should be allowed to refuse to serve blacks. However, government rules forcing restaurant owners not to serve blacks are not allowed, even though for the blacks in question the results are much the same.
It’s not that most libertarians think this kind of discrimination is acceptable and would engage in it themselves. They reject legislation against private discrimination because they consider the right to private property and the sovereignty of property owners much more important than the fight against private discrimination. They also argue that market mechanisms, which they also like a whole lot, will – over time – weed out such discrimination. A restaurant owner who refuses to serve blacks will do a lot worse than his competitors who are more open minded. He will lose benefits of scale, will have to raise his prices and ultimately also lose the bigoted white customers who detest eating in the presence of blacks but detest even more paying unreasonable prices.
Here’s a good statement of the libertarian position by a self-confessed libertarian:
(1) Private discrimination should, in general, be legal (this includes affirmative action preferences, btw). Many libertarians would make exceptions for cases of monopoly power, and most would ban private discrimination when the government itself ensured the monopoly by law, as with common carriers like trains; (2) The government may not discriminate. If necessary, the federal government should step in to prevent state and local governments from discriminating; (3) The government may not force private parties to discriminate, and the federal government should, if necessary, step in to prevent state and local governments from forcing private parties to discriminate; (4) The government must protect members of minority groups and those who seek to associate with them from private violence. If the state and local government won’t do so, the federal government should step in. (source)
Note the mention of violence in this quote: private violence against blacks isn’t allowed, private discrimination is. Why the difference? Again, property rights. Laws against violence don’t usually violate anyone’s property rights.
Now, what’s the problem with this libertarian position? Property rights are obviously very important. You don’t need to be a libertarian to believe that. I argued strongly in favor of property rights here. Likewise, the free market does an enormous amount of good. The problem with the libertarian view is absolutism and a rejection of value pluralism. There are many values in life, and many different strategies to realize them. And sometimes, some values or strategies come into conflict with each other. When that happens – as is the case here – you have to be willing to balance them and see which one should take precedence. Privacy and free speech, for example, are both important, but what do you do when a journalist exposes the private life of a public figure? You balance the right and wrong: which value is better served by publishing? Free speech or privacy? In some cases, we may believe that free speech is more important than the right to privacy (for example when the politician’s private life has relevance for his functioning). In other cases privacy will trump speech (for example when the facts published have no political meaning). Such decisions can only be taken case by case because the specifics always differ. Doctrinaire and absolutists positions in favor of one value or the other won’t do. And unfortunately many libertarians, and certainly Rand in this case, seem to think that their preferred values – property, freedom and the market – should always have priority over all other values.
Is legislation such as the Civil Rights Act an infringement of property rights and the freedom to do with your property as you want? Of course it is. Are such infringements always wrong? Of course they aren’t. Sometimes they are a necessary evil to gain a greater good.
There a resemblance between the libertarian views on private discrimination and the more widely accepted view in the U.S. that free speech rights and the First Amendment can only be invoked against the government, as if private actors can’t violate people’s right to free speech. The dominant U.S. free speech doctrine reflects an antiquated view of human rights as exclusively vertical. Of course, the government probably does most of the violations, particularly of a right such as free speech, but probably not in the case of the right not to be discriminated against. That’s more of a private monopoly, and markets, protest marches, boycotts, activism etc. won’t solve that problem by themselves. Just look at the market: it didn’t solve segregation, and neither would it have had it been more free. In fact, it’s likely that bigoted white customers who detest eating in the presence of blacks, will not find themselves in white only and hence more expensive restaurants, but will band together and boycott non-segregated restaurants which then lose far more business among whites than they gain from allowing blacks. Such boycotts are absolutely in line with property rights and the free market, which shows that the market can make discrimination worse instead of destroying it. (For a more sympathetic view of the power of the market, go here).
Strangely, Rand Paul himself invoked the parallel between private discrimination and free speech, but twists it to serve his goals:
INTERVIEWER: But under your philosophy, it would be okay for Dr. King not to be served at the counter at Woolworths?
PAUL: I would not go to that Woolworths, and I would stand up in my community and say that it is abhorrent, um, but, the hard part—and this is the hard part about believing in freedom—is, if you believe in the First Amendment, for example—you have too, for example, most good defenders of the First Amendment will believe in abhorrent groups standing up and saying awful things… It’s the same way with other behaviors. In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people, who have abhorrent behavior. (source)
So we have to tolerate discrimination that actually harms real people, just like we tolerate awful speech that most likely doesn’t hurt a fly? Words don’t equal behavior, although sometimes there may be a thin line between them (which is why hate speech laws can sometimes be justified).
More on libertarianism, segregation, Jim Crow and discrimination. And there’s a post here on the related question whether racist political parties can or should be forced to accept members of another race.
The two U.S. athletes received their medals shoeless, but wearing black socks, to represent black poverty. Carlos wore a necklace of beads which he described “were for those individuals that were lynched, or killed and that no-one said a prayer for, that were hung and tarred. It was for those thrown off the side of the boats in the middle passage.” As they left the podium they were booed by the crowd. Time magazine wrote
“Faster, Higher, Stronger” is the motto of the Olympic Games. “Angrier, nastier, uglier” better describes the scene in Mexico City last week. (source)
Carlos and Smith were stripped of their medals, ejected from the Olympic Village, and returned to an unfriendly welcome in the U.S.
I, Too, Sing America, by Langston Hughes
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes. But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
Tomorrow I’ll sit at the table
When company comes
Nobody’ll dare Say to me, “Eat in the kitchen”
Besides, they’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed,–
I, too, am America.
Another case in which the language of human rights is shockingly abused:
Markus [is] America’s first legal male prostitute. [He] is the newest hire at the Shady Lady Ranch brothel in Tonopah Nevada, a business that recently got the go-ahead to hire a few good men. He likened his decision to rise up and become a gigolo to the civil rights struggles of the ’60s. “It’s just the same as when Rosa Parks decided to sit at the front instead of the back. She was proclaiming her rights as a disadvantaged, African-American older woman. And I’m doing the same. I’m actually standing up now, and hopefully I can be supported by the male community and be understood as a person. This actually isn’t about selling my body. This is about changing social norms.” (source)
Indeed, the struggle of African Americans against centuries of slavery, lynchings, racism, segregation and discrimination is very much like the problems of male prostitutes who can only now practice their trade in full respect of the law…
Rosa Parks’ refusal to obey bus driver James Blake’s order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger, and her subsequent arrest, is one of the most famous events in the history of the American civil rights movement. Read the whole story here.
The picture, taken in 1963, shows Governor George Wallace attempting to block integration and desegregation at the University of Alabama by the enrollment of black students. He is standing defiantly at the door (while being confronted by Deputy U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach). Wallace is best known for the line:
In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.
However, later in life, he changed his views. Here is another picture of the same event:
Segregation in education has produced other iconic images. There is for example the image of the “Little Rock Nine“. More on segregation here and here. Something on the related topic of Jim Crow is here. Other iconic images of human rights violations are here.
A reader of Andrew Sullivan’s blog makes the connection between the rhetoric of the tea-party protests and of the segregationists some 50 years ago.
Both movements systematically use(d) the labels “antichrist” and “communist/socialist” to describe their opponents (respectively the civil rights movement and its contemporary product, Obama). So perhaps we’re not talking about two different movements after all, in which case Jimmy Carter would be right in his assessment of the tea-party protests. I personally think it’s a mix of different motivations, and for some of today’s protesters race probably plays a role.
There’s another strange continuity between the old and the new pictures: in the old picture, race mixing is called “the march of the antichrist”; in the new picture, Obama – a product of race mixing – is called the antichrist. Seems like they’re saying: “I told you so”.
You can read the story behind this picture here. The African American girl in the foreground is Elizabeth Eckford, one of the so-called Little Rock Nine. On September 4, 1957, she and eight other African American students attempted to enter Little Rock Central High School, which had previously only accepted white students.
They were stopped at the door by Arkansas National Guard troops called up by Democratic Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, in defiance of a unanimous decision of the United States Supreme Court (Brown v. Board of Education). They tried again without success to attend Central High on September 23, 1957. The next day, September 24, President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent U.S. Army troops to accompany the Little Rock Nine to school for protection.
The most prominent of the people screaming in the background is Hazel Bryan. Her scream became iconic of white hatred, and indeed you can see the hate in her face and you can almost hear the slur. She was only 15 years old at the time. Hazel, it turned out, never stopped thinking about the picture and trying to make amends for it. The two women even became friends, but the friendship didn’t last.
Here is the image from another perspective:
Here’s a picture of the women now:
The belief that members of different castes cannot speak to each other is a gross exaggeration. The English word “caste” does have a connotation of strict separation. It’s from the Latin word castus, “pure, cut off, segregated” (see also castration), but in caste societies such as India there is a lot of interaction between members of different castes. It’s true that the Indian caste system still results in some level of segregation and discrimination between castes (even if the Indian Constitution has outlawed discrimination based on caste), but nothing like what is suggested by the above cartoon, which is almost racist and certainly a denigration of India. See this previous post for a more in-depth analysis of the Indian caste system.
Here’s a short overview of different types of equality (I’ll come back to this in future posts):
This concept is linked to the concept of non-discrimination. Laws must be equal for everybody and should not discriminate between people. Everyone should be protected and punished by the law in the same manner. The law is equal for all and all are equal for the law. The law cannot favor or harm a particular group or person. It can only favor or harm everybody in the same way. It has to be neutral with regard to persons. The legislator cannot make a law against or in favor of a particular person or group. A law should never apply to a limited group of people and should never treat people in different ways. It should by definition, be general. The same laws apply to everybody in the same way, including the legislator.
This neutrality is a requirement for both the content and the application of a law. A neutral law can still be applied in a selective way. Breaches of the law can be prosecuted or punished in an unequal and discriminatory way (take for example, the demography of death row in the US). That is also why the testimony of all persons is counted with the same weight. If that would not be the case, the equal application of the law would be impossible.
This is also linked to non-discrimination. Every human being has equal rights, wherever he or she lives, whether he or she believes in a God or not, is rich or poor, or whatever. Human rights are rights of all people at all times. If everybody has equal rights and if, as a consequence, nobody should be discriminated against in the use of his or her rights, then human rights are universal. It is unacceptable that some people enjoy more human rights than others, or enjoy some human rights more than other people enjoy them.
This is expressed in the democratic rule of “one man, one vote” designed to give all citizens equal influence. Political participation is an equal right. Everybody has the same right to participate and to rule, irrespective of class, status, race etc. Many social distinctions are politically irrelevant. Everybody has one vote and is politically equivalent. Every vote is as important as the next one, no matter whose vote it is. Of course, political equality can be undone by economic inequality and inequality of wealth. That is why a democracy should also protect a certain kind of material equality.
See this post. Equality of opportunity is often contrasted with equality of outcome or condition, i.e. the equality of income and wealth.
Beside these distinctions, others are also often used: equality of procedure, absolute vs relative equality, inequality for equality (affirmative action)…
The Jim Crow laws, often referred to as merely Jim Crow, were state and local laws in force mainly in the Southern states of the United States between 1876 and 1965 (mostly voted by Democratic Party politicians). They enforced the segregation of blacks and whites in all public facilities (public schools, public places, public transportation, restrooms, restaurants etc.) and led to inferior treatment and accommodations for African-Americans, although in theory they were designed to make things “separate but equal” (separation being supposedly in the interests of African-Americans because integration would expose them to white racism and would create low self-esteem).
The laws were overruled by Brown v. Board of Education deicision of the SUpreme Court, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (pushed by Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democratic president), but the practices were brought to complete end only in the 1970s. De facto segregation, particularly in schools, continues until today, as do many other forms of discrimination.
In 1896, the US Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” facilities were constitutional. Thanks to the Court, African-Americans suffered half a century from legalized discrimination. Something to keep in mind when contemplating some of the current decision of the Court.
(The origins of the name are not clear. It may be based on a racist song).
Although not the direct result of the Laws, but perhaps of the culture created by the laws, lynching became “a social ritual” by the beginning of the 20th century.
The idea of equal rights resulted from the emergence and the ascent of the bourgeoisie in 17th and 18th century Europe, and was in the first instance, a tool for the protection of their interests. The bourgeoisie was, compared to the aristocracy, a relatively open class. One could enter and leave this class in a relatively free and sudden way and the moment of entering or leaving was sometimes hard to predict. For this reason, it was undesirable to create a new set of privileges in the style of those of the older classes. If the bourgeoisie was to have rights to protect its interests, they had no choice but to instate rights for everybody.
Historically, the transformation of privileges (or freedoms and rights limited to certain groups, such as guilds, corporations, the nobility etc.) into general or human rights was the invention of the revolutions of the 18th century. From this moment on, human rights were considered to be rights of individuals as entities detached from concrete relationships and groups.
Of course, in the beginning this was to a large extent rhetoric. Women and the working class didn’t have the same rights as white affluent men. There was also slavery, colonialism etc. It took centuries of struggle to make people aware of the contradictions between human rights philosophy and social reality. We have made enormous progress (slavery is abolished in many countries, the civil rights movement in the US has ended many types of discrimination like the Jim Crow laws etc) but still the struggle isn’t finished.
If Rosa Parks had taken a poll before she sat down in the bus in Montgomery, she’d still be standing. Mary Frances Berry
Democracy isn’t perfect. The majority can very well be harmful to the human rights of some. That is why human rights can trump the right of the majority to have its will respected. Democracy is more than just a system of majority rule. After all, a tyranny can also have the support of a majority, but that’s not enough to call it a democracy. Human rights are an integral part of an ideal democracy, not only because of the rights of the minorities, but also because without human rights, a majority cannot establish its will (speech, assembly, association etc.) and cannot check if its representatives respectfully implement its will.