Chapter 4. To The Extent That There Has Been Any Improvement At All - What Caused It and Which Individuals And Organizations Were Responsible for those changes?
There is little evidence to show that the Federal, State or Local governments ever did anything, voluntarily, to change the atmosphere, status or social conditions of non-white Americans? There isn't any evidence that I know of that will show where the government ever acted to do anything about race relations in America without being forced into action . But thank God for, 'truth on the scaffold, even though wrong has been on the throne'!
President Abraham Lincoln appeared to be initially motivated more by his love of the Union (which he did not wish to see split apart under his watch), than any real love for non-white human beings or altruism. In geographical regions all over America, it was those courageous individuals of all races (not only blacks and whites), who began to break down the walls of racial separation and the American Apartheid system.
John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry West Virginia (go and see it for yourself as I did), resulted in his loosing his life in order to save the Union. Many whites think of him as an American traitor. And what did he do to service the title traitor, he tried to free other human beings from the gross injustices that they were victims of in the land of the free and the home of the slave!
The Pinkerton's assisted Harriet Tubman to secretly transporting black slaves to the north where they could be free. With respect to the black slave revolts, men like Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey gave their lives to liberate American blacks. Freedom fighters like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas and many others risked life and limb to secure the rights and freedoms of black Americans. And what did the government do? It did nothing, without being forced into action!
Separate But Not Equal:
Even before 'separate but equal was codified into law' given the famous Supreme Court Decision Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), which upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation even in public accommodations (eventually overturned in 1954). Separate but equal which in the minds of many whites was a blessing to blacks, proved not to be so equal after all.
The separate part worked (keeping the races apart for the most part), however, the equal part did not. However, separate but equal was the indefensible law of the land. Blacks continued to be the recipients of disproportionality, which included being banned from land ownership, access to public accommodations, fair employment, decent housing, equal education under the law, not to mention equal treatment and protections by its America's federal, state and local governments, et al.
Black Americans who were called Negroes at the time, had the worst housing, attended the most inferior schools, received the lowest pay (when they could find work), were not permitted to live in the better neighborhoods with whites, even when they could afford it; or to be fairly compensated for their hard work. All of the best in the American apartheid system was reserved for white Americans.
All 3 branches of the federal government conspired to ensure that the white majority retained every advantage. By the end of the 19th century, some blacks found their way into Freedom Schools and occasionally into other educational institutions where they were often trained as teachers. A few other blacks acquired skills that permitted them to work for a time in various semi-skilled and skilled trades and occupations. Free at last?
The latter occurred as a result of the Freedman's Bureau Act at the cessation of the American Civil War. Missionaries and other progressive whites sought to undo the damage that was done by the historical American apartheid system. These individuals believed that education was the solution. We know today that it took more than education, given that you can have the best education and still be denied access into a career. Besides, the wrong people were being educated.
White Americans should have been forced to attend Freedman's schools in place of blacks who attended these schools. Why? Because it was the sick minds of the majority culture that was causing all of the problems in America in the first place. For example, for roughly two centuries it had been against the law for black Americans to learn to read or write or in many instances to be educated in primary, secondary, or post-secondary institutions of higher learning. What sick minds came up with idea?
It was the same sick minded individuals who wanted a headstart and the preeminence in every aspect of American life. These same individuals also believed that non-whites should not be equally compensated for their labor (if they were compensated at all), or be equal in anyway to white racist majority culture. Now get this, these guiding lights were not arguing that blacks could not be educated (albeit some believed it), they were simply threatened at the prospects of a black intellectual class existing and living alongside them in America.
And folks, these individuals who did not want an educated black class in America, were not intellectual giants themselves by any stretch. The literacy rate for white Americans hovered somewhere at around 20%! Massa himself was often as illiterate as he was morally bankrupt!
A small minority of blacks, by the turn of the 20th century succeeded in earning college degrees anyway, including my late grandmother Mrs. Ila Luster formerly of Oxford Mississippi. She will forever remain as one of our our family heroes. She managed to graduate from Rusk College, a Freedman's School in southern Mississippi. Grandma became a teacher, and later a school principal - she served the majority of her life as an educator in the racist Mississippi School System.
Other blacks went on to earn advanced degrees. W.E.B. Dubois, was the first black to graduate from Harvard University. Carter Godwin Woodson, the Father of Black History, followed suit. He received a Ph.D. in History from Harvard University and is responsible for starting black history day, and later black history month in America.
Blacks again began developing their own trade unions, newspapers, churches and other businesses. And as a result, some blacks began to enjoy a lifestyle that rivaled their white counterparts. But for the most part, whether north or south, blacks still remained disproportionately a part of America's permanent underclass.
Chapter 4. The Industrial Military Periods in America:
American factories began to appear and burgeon in the north long before the beginning of WWII, and by the end of WWII most factories were mass producing goods at an alarming pace. By the time the war ended women and some blacks had been hired and placed in low-skilled jobs in factories mostly in the north.
Women of all races and racial minorities were also being accepted in the United States armed services, there they were expected to work in menial tasks and in assistant roles. After the war, American factories shifted back to non-military post-war production. The insatiable desire for consumer goods had to be satisfied and the drive to hire workers began at full blast.
Many black Americans, having just returned from the War relocated to the north in order to find work in America's factories. Some women, who were pressed into factory work during the war refused to return to their former domestic roles. And other blacks who were hired during the war were also retained in low paying jobs.
Even though the best jobs were reserved for white males, finally, a black middle-class began to emerge given the ability of blacks to find jobs in northern centers. Blacks were then viewed as a viable labor pool for those positions that were unwanted by whites. Many black Americans began to enjoy the good life. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) A. Phillip Randolph was its President became one of the most formidable and powerful trade unions in America.
It was A. Phillip Randolph who came up with the idea of having black Americans march en masse to Washington DC. In 1963, with the support of America's new and powerful civil rights organization,his idea came into fruition.
Given the newly organized black elite in America, and because of the constant pressure that they brought upon the government, as well as the changes that they forced through their Unions, changes began to be made for black civilians, as well as for blacks who were service connected. This represented one of the majority cultures greatest fears, organized blacks. The majority culture made sure up until then that the likelihood of organized black associations (not even churches) would never happen.
Why? Because organizations represent power - and blacks were never supposed to have any power in the American apartheid system. And did I fail to mention that the American government, Federal, Local and State, did nothing to change the conditions of blacks, without having to be forced into doing so. I just thought that point bore repeating over and over again. Of course the American government owes retribution to black Americans, in the form of compensation and more, given its own egregious failures to uphold black American's civil rights.
It is shameful to think that black Americans had to march on Washington, the seat of the Federal Government, because government officials and all 3 branches of government, along with state and local governments, failed to enforce the Amended Constitution of the United States of America (land of the free and home of the slave).
Race, Money and Politics: Who would argue that the three are not extricably tied together in America. It used to be believed in America that having money was the reward for hard work. Some however ignored the fact that their economic gains were a direct result, not of hard work, but a result of inherited and at the same time stolen wealth.
And where did the inherited stolen wealth come from, that has been passed down intergenerationally? Oftentimes it came from the uncompensated work of the majority of black Americans. By the mid-nineteen fifties, mainstream Americans that historically had been left out in the past, realized that politics was the means to protect their newly earned wealth.
By this time both women and blacks had 'the right to vote' and they were utilizing the vote whenever possible to secure their financial well-being, as well as to procure and secure their Constitutionally guaranteed rights. But not so fast, for it would be necessary for more laws to be passed in order to counter the illegal and preventive measures that whites were taking in order to keep blacks and women from voting. Poll taxes, grandfather clauses and blatant refusals to permit blacks to vote, were common in the south in particular.
Voting rights acts which were to later be enacted into law, were passed as late as the 1970s, given white resistance to blacks who tried to exercise their franchise. Even in the beginning of the 21st century, we have witnessed the callousness of white Americans both north and south in states like Ohio in the north, and Florida and North Carolina where systematic fraudulent efforts were made to prevent blacks from voting.
Oh and by the way, what did our federal, state or local governments do about it? As usual, nothing?
The fact that many black Americans and women were participants to some degree in the American economic and political process (and at the same time enjoying their share of the American pie), inspired them not only to be politically active but seek office themselves.
Because minorities tended to vote in blocks, there has been continued white resistance to blacks voting in the south, and in trade unions in the north particularly where blacks and whites to some extent worked at the same trade. Blacks, like women continued to receive less pay for doing the same or similar work as their non-white counterparts.
My dad was for years a member of the United Rubber Workers. In the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company plant that he worked in during the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's, blacks were relegated to working in occupations with the lowest pay scales. The highest paying factory wage-earners were tire builders. The company refused, as late as the early 1960's to allow blacks to build tires.
The blacks however finally forced the URW union, the same union that they paid monthly dues, to make the necessary changes - and it worked. To the anger and chagrin of many of their white co-workers, blacks began to build tires alongside them. In fact, black productivity was so high that the white tire builders began to complain that they would have to worker harder in order to sustain their accustomed rate of pay.
And this was true given that tire builders for the most part were paid 'a piece rate'. In other words, they were paid for each tire that they built. Once blacks began building more tires per shift, management lowered the pay scales, which meant that white tire builders who were coasting, had to work harder. That fact of fact resulted in animosity between white and black tire workers.
I began working at Firestone myself while I was still attending high school. I worked in a cooperative education program, which meant that I went to school for half day, and I worked at the Electronic Data Processing for 4 hours each nigh. After graduation, I became a full-time employee at Firestone. By the second year I decided that I wanted to try something else. I had an excellent record and therefore I was granted a promotion.
I transferred to the Statistical Quality Control department at Firestone, where I became an SQC technician. My job was to extract samples, periodically, from the production pool of tires that were built in Plant 1 in Akron Ohio. I weighed, examined and evaluated a sample of tires each day, and compiled a statistical report. The white workers clearly had not seen too many blacks walking around the plant in a shirt and tie before.
Many of the white workers had never experienced having a black man in a shirt and tie tell them what to do either, particularly one who was in his early 20's and attending college. The white workers quickly named me 'Boston Blacky'. Someone even scribbled my new name on a poster board just outside of the factory lunchroom. Another first, a black manager was hired in Final.
Final Inspection was the last stop for cured tires, prior to being shipped off to warehouses. My friend was not only subject to the same kind of indignities that I was often subjected to by resistant white laborers, they actually took a bucket of black tar and poured it over his white leather jacket that hung unlocked in his locker.
I will never forget the white worker who I told to get a wheelbarrow and to pick up a tire and return it to the builder, because of its poor craftsmanship. It was also my job to mark any green tires, show where the deficencies were and to have them returned to the builder when I noticed shoddy workmanship. Man, these fellas didn't like me at all. Well, in fairness some of them did, black and white. We have come a long way baby, or have we?
The behavior of some whites began to change when they learned that my dad was a tirebuilder. He worked on a floor just above my testing station. Dad was proud to have his son in the plant, where before I left I was highly regarded. His only complaint was son, please take that bible off of your plant desk. Yes, I kept one of my Scofield bibles down at my workstation. It was not there for protection, I often read it while I waited to extract samples from the production line. Dad didn't like that!
Blacks exercised their right to vote in civil as well as union elections in order to break down the walls of discrimination and separation. The right to vote also helped to address disparate and unequal pay structures that existed in factories across the land. Blacks also used their newly found voting power in order to acquire white collar positions in those same factories. I was not in the union (white-collared staff were not allowed to join the union at the time), however, I was a beneficiary, given the actions taken by the URW union.
In fact parity among wage earners in certain trades and factories became commonplace around the late 1970s. Civil Rights workers like Dr. Martin King joined in the fight to help bring about economic justice in terms of hiring and fair pay, his march with Sanitation Workers in Alabama was most notable. The black middle class in America began to burgeon, and soon after blacks went beyond, seeking to vote. Many blacks decided that they could do more by running for office, many began to run for offices like precinct captain, town and city councilperson, mayor, US Representative and even for the office of president of the United States of America.
The late Shirley Chisholm (whom I was honored to meet) and to garner an autographc which I gave to my niece. And since Representative Shirley Chisholm's run for the office of President, so have the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Reverend Al Sharpton, and most recently Senator Obama made a serious run for the office of President of the United States of America.
Shirley Chisholm, in my mind was proof that a female could do a better job of leading this nation than most males have done - God bless her soul. She is one of the reasons that I am voting for Hillary Clinton, she will do a better job than any of the men who are running for office today, on either side of the aisle!
Chapter 5. Progress and What Still Needs to Be Done if Anything:
Resistance borne out of fear persisted. Many whites were more and more afraid of the power that blacks began to accrue, and the walls of resistance in many instances were fortified, however, more progressive individuals began to see that blacks and whites in certain classes had much in common.
Blacks like whites cared about the rising cost of living. The black economy in America during the 1990's was equal to that of the 8th largest nations in the world like Australia and Canada. Factory wage-earners whose income was practically equal saw that the black vote could be useful in helping them to win wedge issues and even to defeat their white counterparts in some instances. Blacks and whites began to openly cooperate and to pool their votes and resources.
Presidential contenders like Harry Truman and others began to experience the need to pursue the black vote. Soon after the walls of separation began to diminish and certain neighborhoods began to open up to people of all colors. Lower-middle class blacks began to move into lower-middle class neighborhoods. Middle and upper middle class blacks began to move into neighborhoods with whites who were proportionately in the same income earning brackets as they were.
Some wealthy blacks, were even permitted to move in the neighborhoods of upper middle-class blacks and occasionally the wealthy. However, the Walls Came Tumbling Down - Only To Be Resurrected: Ronald Reagan and most Americans proudly proclaim America's contribution to WWII. These Americans are also proud of America's decades of toil to bring down the wall that separated east and west Germany.
What is so amazing is that while America would send its military off to fight against those leaders and nations who discriminated against or sought to Lord over their own people, America was busily engaging in the same behavior at home. As a result of the efforts by determined civil rights workers, both modern-day workers, and workers of the past - the walls would periodically crumble, usually only to be refortified by some separatist white group or by the Federal, State or Local government itself.
As the walls kept tumbling down, and black and white youngsters begin to attend the same schools, there soon came about the actual mixing between the races. Whites and blacks not only dated, but more and more black and white marriages became more common place. The mood in the country shifted to the extent that blacks and whites not only joined together in famous marches like The March on Washington, where blacks and whites joined and worked together to strike down the discriminatory laws that remained on the books.
Did it work? Well, not really. Today many once segregated white schools districts are now segregated black school districts given 'white flight'! Recently we have had two high-level blacks serving in two of the highest offices in the land, and interestingly they serve and have served in the Republican Party (the Party which the majority of black Americans considers to be the anti-black party. Secretary of State Colin Powell has since been let go, however. Dr. Condoleeza Rice continues to serve - she took over as Secretary of State.
As some blacks began to prosper and to move up the political and economic ladder, many of these blacks have found that they have more in common with their cross-cultural counterparts. Many blacks have begun to take 'flight' from the communities that they were raised in. Some blacks have done everything possible to move away from, and not be identified with the black culture.
Becoming more and more like their white counterparts, many blacks who 'have arrived', share the same disdain or sense of superiority to their black sisters and brothers, as do their elitist white counterparts. Neither of the latter want to live with blacks from the lower-economic, less educated social strata. Some of the newly arrived and upscale blacks prefer white culture, including its music, its mainstream religious denominations, its art forms, its style of dress and its vacation and travel destinations.
Conclusion. A New Form of Discrimination Has Evolved where some blacks hate to see their once fellow blacks coming around or attending the upscale and predominantly white parishes where they attend. And this is in deference to the number of other black and whites, customarily in the middle and lower classes that worship now together in multi-cultural churches. Many of the up-scale blacks have advanced degrees and prefer and participate in a social structure that they believe is superior to their lesser counterparts.
There is no longer that caring 'consciousness of kind' among elitist and some 'new money blacks'. Well, there is a conscious desire to stay as far as they can away from their own kind. Some who have arrived, even speak in terms that were once in the domain of racist whites. Now some blacks that you would not expect to are saying no, there is nothing else to be done!
For now I would remind Bob Novak and others like him of an old saying, 'if you can do no good, do no harm'! And for the life of me, I cannot see where Bob and those of his ilk are doing the nation any good! There is a lot more that needs to be done to eliminate the structural barriers and to reverse the trends that have led to the subjugation of the human spirit among black Americans, particularly those who are still trapped in Ghettos and that are a part of America's permanent underclass.
Peace & Grace
Reverend C. Solomon