25 May 2010

Week begins

SWAT team goes crazy.
But police chief does something sensible.

Get your vaccines! Or we will ban the quack who says you shouldn't from practicing medicine. Good riddance. Only a few hundred deaths too late.

One thing that occurs over and over again in the great CRA debate is the idea that private discrimination was and is immoral and would and should be protested. I think that's certainly clear now that many of us would delight in doing this. But sort of like Wilt Chamberlain's 100 point game was supposedly attended by 100,000 people (there were a shade over 4000), and the original Woodstock had millions of people there, and so on, people like to think they would act up, speak up, and attach themselves to something meaningful. In practice there were indeed thousands of anonymous and well-known white Southerners who did stand up. Some were arrested right alongside Dr King or other anonymous black folks.

In reality though there would not be an outcry of millions of voices as there might be now to mock, shame, and defeat such an attempt at re-installing any private power to discriminate against black customers or business owners were we to park the same people who claim they would make a fuss in the atmosphere and culture of the 50s and 60s. (and as often noted, there usually isn't any private power to actually do so as it usually involves calling the police to remove people as trespassing without private security firms that say an average restaurant probably wouldn't be able to afford, making the whole idea sort of nonsensical anyway).

One reason the Nazis were able to prevail in power and control a nominally democratic country where they gathered only a plurality of voting support was that they had millions of silent dissenters whose main fear was association with any number of unpopular (even among normal non-Nazi Germans) oppositional groups. In the Jim Crow South, this too was at play, as you can see in that letter. People were not simply having to step up against hatred raised by KKK rallies and acts of terrorism. Or the official harassment and repression brought about by the instruments of the state through police and prosecutors and zoning boards. They had to stand up to their friends. Their own families. Their parents. Their spouses. Their children. And so on. Try to imagine crossing a loved one over a major political issue now, then imagine that you are on opposite sides of a protest; one holding signs and watching them hurl objects at you, degrade you, etc. I don't think most people would stand up and be counted under those conditions. Most people would stay home and maybe say how awful that was that protesters were beaten, arrested, had dogs attacking them, and rocks and bombs hurled at them or their properties and churches, as they saw these things on the news or in their daily paper in the comforts of their own homes, far removed from the scenes of the day. Or maybe they'd even say "that those niggers and nigger-lovers got what they deserved." As many must have done for decades in order for Jim Crow to last as it did.

Or worst of all they could have gone out and started moving within the faceless or nameless hordes who opposed the protesters and demonstrators themselves, as many throughout the country did to oppose busing routes, voting registration campaigns, integration and schools, and so on.

It's easy for us to stand up against any signs of systematic racism now, much less point and mock when it surfaces from the mouth and action of a private individual. When second-class citizenship for blacks and the institution of slavery is considered a forgotten blemish on the nation's history, it's not that hard to point out how pointless and immoral these things are to try to restore. What's harder to do is convince people just how hard achieving even that much really was for the people who lived through it.

Speaking of things that need standing up to... This is overdue. I think they say better late than never.
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