icans after the CiviDid Racial Segregation Improve the Status of African Americans?
Whites were there because they chose to be; blacks were there because they had no choice. (p. 158) This quote, from the essay written by Howard N. Rabinowitz, encompasses many, if not all of the ideas that go along with racial segregation. It is a well-known fact that racial segregation did create a separate and subordinate status for blacks, however, seeing as how at the turn of the century the integration of blacks and whites was a seemingly unrealistic idea, segregation could be seen as somewhat of an improvement from the blacks previous position in the U.S. as slaves.
Everything is forgiven in the South but color. (p. 159) On the contrary to the above ideas, this quote, spoken by a black woman in Alabama, and seen in Leon F. Litwacks essay opposing the idea that segregation improved the status of African Americans; shows how blacks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were characterized by increased inequality because of their skin color. What is looked at as an improvement by Rabinowitz is seen as an informal code of exclusion and discrimination (p. 160) by Litwack.
Although congress reconstructed the exclusion policy in 1867, many white Southerners still remained committed to the exclusion policy. As a result of this, the military and other forces, to grant new privileges and services to blacks, forced the whites. After all, segregation was the alternative to integration, and whites didnt want integration. In Rabinowitzs essay, entitled From Exclusion to Segregation: Southern Race Relations, 1865-1890, many examples are shown in regards to how the exclusion of blacks was transformed into the segregation of blacks from whites. Some examples of this were seen in bars, athletic events, parks, trains, etc. An idea was presented by certain Republicans that said that separate provisions for blacks was not a violation of civil rights as long as the facilities and accommodations were equal to those of whites. Rabinowitz states: They blacks accepted segregation because it was seen as an improvement over exclusion and because they believed, or at least hoped, that separate facilities could be equal. (p. 156) The segregation of blacks was also seen by Rabinowitz as the chance to form a group identity among blacks. When the white community persisted in its policy of exclusion, blacks responded by opening up their own hospitals, orphanages, hotels, ice cream parlors, and skating rinks. (p. 157) Although these actions cant really be compared to the racism shown by whites, by implementing their own establishments, blacks showed that they too could contribute to the separation of blacks and whites.
The Black Codes, as well as the few segregation laws that were passed by the post Civil war government, failed to carry on through the Reconstruction period. What Litwack saw, as stated in his essay entitled White Folks: Acts, to be their replacement, was not racial integration, but an informal code of exclusion and discrimination. (p. 160) A black South Caroliner states, the white people couldnt master these niggers any more so they took up the task of intimidating them. (p.160) Litwack is showing here that as a result of the eradication of slavery from the United States, whites felt as if they no longer had control over the blacks and therefore felt the need to find some way to still master them without owning them. It is evident, from the examples that Litwack provides in his essay that segregation caused many confrontations between whites and blacks. Although there were supposed to be separate but equal facilities for both blacks and whites, in many situations that was not the case. For example, Litwack points out that many of the public parks entrances had signs that stated: Negroes and dogs not allowed. (p. 163) Not only did this still endorse the exclusion of the blacks from public parks, it also classified blacks as being equivalent to dogs. These signs as well as all other aspects of segregation were neither mentally accepted or emotionally approved by blacks, however, it was followed to facilitate one thing: survival. Segregation made for a life of difficulty for the blacks, as they couldnt live day by day at ease. Blacks were not equal, but secondary, to anything and everything that had to do with white people.
The most repressive period in the history of race relations in the South also became he most violentOnce dehumanized, black life was cheapened and made even more expendable. The effort to solidify the subordination of black men and women knew no limits. (p. 167)
The reason I chose this article was because at one time, when I was in Korea, I was segregated against myself. I couldnt eat in certain restaurants, was kicked out of certain stores, and wasnt allowed in certain parts of town because I was white and American. I also think that in todays society although things are not as they were in the 1800s there is still a significant amount of racism and segregation implemented by whites and blacks. Although we are supposed to be equal, I think there is significant evidence that shows we are not.
Although racial segregation could be seen as part of the natural progression of blacks from going slaves to being equal to whites, I would have to agree with Litwack in his views that segregation did not improve the status of African Americans. The violence and discrimination that occurred during this time was not going to help the progression of blacks towards equality. By the government establishing separate facilities for blacks and whites, it showed its own discrimination towards African Americans. Even though facilities were supposed to be equal, the mere fact that they were separate and not integrated supported the idea that the two groups were not equal. After the Civil war, it could not be expected for blacks to immediately integrate with whites; however, different measures should have been taken by the government to ensure the proper and equal treatment of everyone.
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