Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Court costs totaling $14.00

It has been nearly 25 years since I have been a passenger on an American school bus to attend school or field trips but I remember the experience very well. The objective for most students was to secure the back seats of the bus -- which provided little more than symbolic geographic separation from the "authorities" represented by the bus driver. No self-respecting "cool kid" would sit in the front of the bus. However, if you turn the clock back even further on this type of societal behavior to nearly 50 years ago the bus seats with social status were those located at the front of the bus designated "For Whites Only" with black people/African-Americans required to sit in the back of the bus.

This government-imposed American apartheid system -- perfected by the white power structure of Birmingham, Alabama -- was challenged at its core on December 1, 1955 when bus driver James Blake insisted four black passengers move to allow a white passenger to sit alone. While three of the black passengers complied, the fourth passenger refused to move to seats further back in the bus. This passenger was Rosa Parks who died on Monday, October 24, 2005. Due to her act of civil disobedience Ms. Parks was arrested and fined by the court system for a total of US$14.00.

These segregation laws regarding seating on buses were not only completely unjust they were completely inefficient as evidenced by the fact that black passengers had to enter the front door of the bus to pay their fare but they would have to exit via the same door to enter the rear door of the bus in order to sit in the back seats. Who in 2005 would welcome another 15 or 20 minutes added to your daily commute as you find yourself trapped behind a parked bus waiting for the black passengers to comply with this Klan-inspired fare paying/seat allocation system?

The pace of civil rights reform has been very slow in our ".............Land of the free......." as evidenced by these timeline points:

1776 -- Declaration of Independence states "ALL men are created equal"

1787 -- the Founding Fathers create Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution which codifies an agreement between Free and Slave States known as the "3/5 compromise" which essentially considered a black person/slave to be equivalent to "3/5" of a free/white man.

1865 to 1870 -- the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments are added to the US Constitution seeking to ensure equal rights and prevent discrimination against all citizens of the USA

1948 -- US President Harry Truman integrated the "Negro troops" into the overall US Armed Services

1955 -- Rosa Parks arrested for sitting in a bus seat reserved for whites

1960's -- the primary timeframe for the American Civil Rights movement including women's rights

American society is hopefully getting more color blind but hard and soft racism is not dying out anytime soon so we must be vigilant and educate people where we can with tools such as this new book:

"The Interpreter"
by Alice Kaplan

No, this book was not the inspiration for the Nicole Kidman film by the same name but this book does focus on the racism and racial bias in the judicial process within the US Military. Ms. Kaplan's book is based on courts martial cases conducted by the US Army in occupied France during World Way II. The court cases discussed in this book show how black soldiers were discriminated again during he court proceedings.

Can't we all just get along,



Dicki said...

Always remember that the private owners of streetcar, railroad, and bus companies did not enforce Jim Crow laws until they were forced. They did not want to alienate their customers. Profits before racism. Isn't that the American way?

Todd said...

I agree with "profits over racism" myself but am not convinced all people agree especially Klan members.

So educate me -- how were "private owners" forced to comply with the Jim Crow laws? Government coercion I would guess but in what form?
Thanks, Todd

Dicki said...

Company employees were arrested for noncompliance of the laws. Owners were threatened with jail time. All in all, government coercion.