Local and Remote Friends of Fred,
Here’s a great film that everyone should watch, especially if you don’t really get what all the fuss is about with the recent Black Lives Matter movement:
The film starts out slow, I thought. It talks about truly horrible things that happened a long time ago, before I was even born. Not my problem, right? I never owned any slaves, and I’m not a racist. Why all the fuss right now?
It gets better and better as it moves through time and shows that things haven’t improved all that much. Even as recently as the 1960’s, during my childhood, Blacks needed the “Green Book” to travel the country safely. Otherwise, couldn’t buy gas, food, lodging, etc. As one who loves to take long multi-week road trips, I can’t even imagine!
In the 1970’s and 1980’s as Blacks moved into the suburbs, police stops for “Driving While Black” rose dramatically. That problem is not new. It’s still going on, in the 1990’s and 2000’s and 2010’s and 2020’s. Phone cameras and social media have just finally brought it into the public eye.
Black parents still have to sit their sons down and “have the talk” about how to not get killed by a policeman. Keep hands in plain sight, don’t talk, try to live long enough to get to the police station and make a phone call home.
My parents never had to say that to me. I’m gradually beginning to understand my white privilege.
And Black people can’t escape the prejudice, not even temporarily. How to hide the the fact that they’re Black? Can’t be “in the closet”. Can’t choose when to expose themselves to it. It’s all the time, every hour of every day, day after day, until they die.
If you don’t want to watch the entire 2-hour movie, you can skip around to these most relevant parts:
Blacks couldn’t leave a one-mile area, for entire lives
Slave catchers evolved into police
Underground railroad, Fugitive Slaves Act of 1850, Emancipation Proclamation 1863, but nowhere to go
Arrested for walking along road, going to train station, vagrant laws, Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow laws, segregation, colored train car full of engine smoke
White privilege, poor whites are still “at least white”
“The Great Migration” — Flight to the North and West. 6 million people 1916–1970, Detroit went from 3–4 percent Black to 40 percent
Jim Crow Laws upheld by Supreme Court 1896, segregation across entire US, automobile invented, Ford and GM hired Blacks for heavy labor
1913 mass production drops car prices to $300–400, 1925 used cars being sold for $100. 1929 1/5 of people owned cars, Blacks can ride in their own car, avoid humiliation of bus or train, can finally travel the country, can move to other parts of country, can go back to visit family, can visit museums and national parks, hit the open road. “See the USA in your Chevrolet!”.
BUT… Blacks can’t buy gas or food along the road, or stay in a hotel, or get car repaired. How to find a place that will allow you, while traveling through strange places? Carry everything you need just in case. Travel at night for safety. Pull off into the woods to sleep while hidden, to avoid having your kids killed.
Blacks need tour guides of safe places to go and what to avoid. 1936–1964 “Negro Motorists Green Book” and other travel guides for Blacks. White publisher was pressured to stop publishing it, but resisted.
1956 Interstate Highway System is a way to avoid driving through the middles of racist towns where you might find a mob. BUT… In cities, they were built right through the middle of Black neighborhoods. Many Green Book sites were bulldozed. Many neighborhoods destroyed or roofed over by highway overpasses.
When integration came and Blacks could finally go to White businesses, many did. But few Whites started going to Black businesses so many of the Black entrepreneurs failed. Most of the Green Book sites are now long gone.
Cars made it possible for people to move to the suburbs, away from mass transit. But Blacks were not welcomed there. 1970’s and 1980’s rise in police stops for “Driving While Black”.
Even today, in 2021, Black parents have to sit their sons down and “have the talk” about how to not get killed by a policeman. Keep hands in plain sight, don’t talk, try to stay alive long enough to get to the police station and make a phone call home.