Day 3 of White History Month: Criminalizing Blackness, Part 2 - Jim Crow Etiquette
The legal aspects of Jim Crow are important to recognize, but Jim Crow was not just a set of laws, but as described by Leophus Taharka King, a “set of ideas, social norms, life ways, mythoforms, role-play symbols, sanctions, and devastations created after the Civil War by white politicians intent on maintaining a system of oppressive control over African American life and economics”.
Often the legal aspects of Jim Crow are the most recognized, leading to other institutions being ignored. The racial etiquette of Jim Crow worked alongside the laws. Jim Crow etiquette was a system of pervasive anti-Black norms that regulated daily life, particularly in the South. These laws were intended to subjugate Black Americans or “keep them in their place”.
Examples of Jim Crow etiquette:
- White Americans referring to Black Americans by their first names or with infantilizing terms such as “boy” or “girl” - all while Black Americans had to address white Americans with the utmost respect, using honorifics
- Black Americans were not to display their intelligence or knowledge in a way that could threaten white Americans
- Black Americans could not suggest that white Americans were lying or even that their intentions were bad
- During World War II, until Eleanor Roosevelt intervened, Black nurses were only allowed to tend to German prisoners of war – not white American soldiers. This occurred even with a severe shortage of nurses.
- Black and White Americans were separated in hospitals and only private ambulances would pick up Black patients.
- Black women received no assistance with luggage or bags on trains or buses.
- When not excluded by law, Black Americans were often were often still restricted from attending movies, the theatre, and other forms of entertainment. If allowed, they generally had to use back entrances and sit upstairs in sections referred to as “nigger heaven” or “buzzard roost.”
- Black Americans were not allowed to try on clothes, as businesses feared that white Americans would never buy them if they did.
The consequences for violating these norms were dire. Black Americans had virtually no legal protection in a system entirely controlled by white Americans. Lynching was used as a tool of intimidation and a way to control and limit the lives of Black Americans. It often took place precisely because Black Americans refused to accept the racist status quo. A number of Black women, often those who resisted white male sexual violence, were raped, tortured, and killed. Thriving Black communities (such as Rosewood) faced violence and destruction. Successful Black women and men were tortured and lynched.
The period of Jim Crow is popularly held to have ended 1950s and 1960s, but many of the norms and ideas about how Black people should behave did not end.
Jim Crow Etiquette Today
Like the racial disparities of Black codes and Jim Crow laws, remnants of the Jim Crow etiquette are still in place.
Black Americans are still often kept out of white spaces. Even middle class Black Americans are frequently followed in stores and excluded from white spaces (see: Sikes and Feagin’s Living with Racism: The Black Middle-Class Experience). Recent cases can be seen even at high-end chains; an example of this is Barneys racially profiling customers. De facto residential segregation and housing discrimination still continue today.
George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin because of his own racially-based, anti-Black fears. Nothing about Trayvon Martin was threatening, but the fact that a Black boy would be walking around a largely white, gated community after dark was justification enough for Zimmerman to stalk, confront, and murder him.
Driving While Black
In many cases, Black drivers are stopped for no reason other than their race. When stopped, Black drivers (and often, Latin@ drivers) are more likely to be searched than white Americans. Black and Latino men are more likely to have force used against them.
This is particularly true in cities that are more segregated and that have smaller Black populations.
[See: “Contacts between Police and the Public: Findings from the 2002 National Survey” [x]
"Vehicle Cues and Racial Profiling: Police Officers’ Perceptions of Vehicles and Drivers" [x] ]
Police BrutalityAnalyzing 130 police-brutality accounts in several cities across the nation, Kim Lersch discovered that the targets of this type of police malpractice are almost always black or Latino. The latter made up 97 percent of the victims of police brutality.Yet the overwhelming majority (93 percent) of officers involved in these incidents were white. Police brutality mainly involves white-on-black or white-on-Latino violence. Moreover, it appears that white elites in many cities sometimes use or allow police harassment in order to keep black residents “in their place.” Some police harassment and brutality targeting Americans of color seem to be linked to maintaining de facto housing segregation. Since the days of slavery, being “out of place” has been potentially dangerous for black Americans, especially black men. If black men are found in historically white residential areas, they still run the risk of harassment by the public or private police forces there. - Joe Feagin, Racist America
Detangling wigs at 4 am #ThisIsDragonCon #LawdImTired #HomemadeN7PantiesLol #NoSleepTilTuesday
If you don’t know who Johnnie Tillmon was, look her up.
Welfare is a Women’s Issue (1972) by Johnnie Tillmon
I’m a woman. I’m a black woman. I’m a poor woman. I’m a fat woman. I’m a middle-aged woman. And I’m on welfare.
In this country, if you’re any one of those things you count less as a human being. If you’re all those things, you don’t count at all. Except as a statistic.
I am 45 years old. I have raised six children. There are millions of statistics like me. Some on welfare. Some not. And some, really poor, who don’t even know they’re entitled to welfare. Not all of them are black. Not at all. In fact, the majority-about two-thirds-of all the poor families in the country are white.
Welfare’s like a traffic accident. It can happen to anybody, but especially it happens to women.
And that’s why welfare is a women’s issue. For a lot of middle-class women in this country, Women’s Liberation is a matter of concern. For women on welfare it’s a matter of survival.
Survival. That’s why we had to go on welfare. And that’s why we can’t get off welfare now. Not us women. Not until we do something about liberating poor women in this country.
Because up until now we’ve been raised to expect to work, all our lives, for nothing. Because we are the worst educated, the least-skilled, and the lowest-paid people there are. Because we have to be almost totally responsible for our children. Because we are regarded by everybody as dependents. That’s why we are on welfare. And that’s why we stay on it.
Welfare is the most prejudiced institution in this country, even more than marriage, which it tries to imitate. Let me explain that a little.
Ninety-nine percent of welfare families are headed by women. There is no man around. In half the states there can’t be men around because A.F.D.C. (Aid to Families With Dependent Children) says if there is an “able-bodied” man around, then you can’t be on welfare. If the kids are going to eat, and the man can’t get a job, then he’s got to go.
Welfare is like a super-sexist marriage. You trade in a man for the man. But you can’t divorce him if he treats you bad. He can divorce you, of course, cut you off anytime he wants. But in that case, he keeps the kids, not you.The man runs everything. In ordinary marriage, sex is supposed to be for your husband. On A.F.D.C., you’re not supposed to have any sex at all. You give up control of your own body. It’s a condition of aid. You may even have to agree to get your tubes tied so you can never have more children just to avoid being cut off welfare.
The man, the welfare system, controls your money. He tells you what to buy, what not to buy, where to buy it, and how much things cost. If things-rent, for instance-really cost more than he says they do, it’s just too bad for you. He’s always right.
That’s why Governor [Ronald] Reagan can get away with slandering welfare recipients, calling them “lazy parasites,” “pigs at the trough,” and such. We’ve been trained to believe that the only reason people are on welfare is because there’s something wrong with their character. If people have “motivation,” if people only want to work, they can, and they will be able to support themselves and their kids in decency.
The truth is a job doesn’t necessarily mean an adequate income. There are some ten million jobs that now pay less than the minimum wage, and if you’re a woman, you’ve got the best chance of getting one. Why would a 45-year-old woman work all day in a laundry ironing shirts at 90-some cents an hour? Because she knows there’s some place lower she could be. She could be on welfare. Society needs women on welfare as “examples” to let every woman, factory workers and housewife workers alike, know what will happen if she lets up, if she’s laid off, if she tries to go it alone without a man. So these ladies stay on their feet or on their knees all their lives instead of asking why they’re only getting 90-some cents an hour, instead of daring to fight and complain.
Maybe we poor welfare women will really liberate women in this country. We’ve already started on our own welfare plan. Along with other welfare recipients, we have organized so we can have some voice. Our group is called the National Welfare Rights Organization (N.W.R.O.). We put together our own welfare plan, called Guaranteed Adequate Income (G.A.I.), which would eliminate sexism from welfare. There would be no “categories”-men, women, children, single, married, kids, no kids-just poor people who need aid. You’d get paid according to need and family size only and that would be upped as the cost of living goes up.
As far as I’m concerned, the ladies of N.W.R.O. are the front-line troops of women’s freedom. Both because we have so few illusions and because our issues are so important to all women-the right to a living wage for women’s work, the right to life itself.
still relevant today
On the road to DragonCon. Car is 80% things and 20% humans. We posted our luggage Tetris photo on Facebook and someone made this meme of me and I’m dying LOL
My suburban white friends were so confused that my parents introduced themselves as Mr. and Mrs. and that I always addressed adults that way. They just don’t know. And I don’t know how popular of a trend this was, but some Black folks gave their children honorifics as first names so white people would have no choice but to call them ‘Mister’ or ‘Sir’. Like, I know tangentially of a woman who’s first name is Doctor.
“Blacks were not allowed to show public affection toward one another in public, especially kissing, because it offended whites.”
Can we look at this one right here real close?
POC in intimate relationships showing each other affection *was considered offensive*. I am kinda wondering, given the absence of intra poc relationships in mass media, if it still is considered as such.
PRECISELY WHAT CAUGHT MY EYE. DA FUCK?????????????????
Well looking at this post, yes
i am not the same person i was before i started playing this video game
I like how you sent me an ask claiming that no one says a thing except people rhetorically making fun of the position that no one actually holds, and then you send me an ask clarifying that you hold exactly the same position.
I’m kind tempted to just not address anything else you said and just marvel in the perfection of that.
What’s the reason for making a character white? What’s the reason for making a character straight? What’s the reason for making a character abled or neurotypical or cis?
When you assume that making a character Other relative to yourself weakens the narrative, you’re revealing a terrible thing about yourself: that you can’t imagine that those people have backstories and inner lives the way that you do.
Every single person in a fictional narrative is ultimately there because a writer decided they needed to be there, but when the person looks like you and matches your expectations, you accept that this person who was made up for the plot had a life full of events that led them to the point where they’re appearing on the screen or page.
But when your expectations aren’t met, you start saying it’s forced. You can’t accept that events led them here because you don’t grant them the kind of life that you know you have. Your empathy does not extend to them.
Look at how many white people think they can relate to a little girl in an industrial orphanage who falls in with a capitalist robber baron during the Great Depression more than they can relate to a little girl in the foster system in modern New York who falls in with a career politician, all because of a difference of race. The original Annie’s situation and world were only slightly less alien to us than the Victorian period, but making her white somehow makes her relatable in a way that a little girl who clearly exists in our world isn’t.
The fact is, empathy is linked to imagination and we can (and do!) relate to people who are literally alien beings in literally alien worlds. The choice not to relate to Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie—or a Black or gay or female or trans video game character—is a choice to shut off both imagination and empathy.
The failing is not with the narrative, it’s with you.