“Whites Only” signs are the product of Jim Crow laws. These signs were prevalent during the time of black codes and Jim Crow laws during the second half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. These laws were defined as “Any of the laws in US history that enforced racial segregation in the South between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and the beginning of the civil rights movement in the 1950s.” (1)
In the time of Minstrel shows, the name “Jim Crow” was used as an irreverent term for black males played by “Black face” actors. Overtime, It transformed into a system of state laws that segregated whites and blacks. During this time of reconstruction, whites used these laws to assert dominance over their newfound, black counterparts.
After the war, southern states did not immediately construct a system of segregation. There were a handful of former slaves who had integrated into schools and presided on juries alongside whites. However, the majority of the south had legislation in place in order to restrict African Americans from experiencing a life comparable to their white counterparts.
In class, we discussed how during the late 1800’s, financially depressed whites relied on hateful acts of racism to ensure they would not lose work to their black counterparts. Politicians battered and berated blacks on a large scale in order to win votes from under-educated, racist whites. The media was filled with propaganda, falsely notifying its white readers that blacks were committing crimes, when in most cases the stories were made up.
I decided to use the “White’s Only” sign as my cultural artifact after reading a story on the news. This news article explained how a teacher in Northern Indiana had been put on paid administrative leave after directing students to put up signs reading “White’s Only” and “Black’s Only” above water fountains and near bathrooms and water fountains around in the high school.
John Trout, the superintendent of the Concord Community Schools, released a statement regarding the teacher’s actions. He indicated that the teacher aimed to “demonstrate the feel of government-sanctioned segregation.” (2) However, he continues to explain that the teacher did not receive approval for the “lesson.”
After reading this article, I was appalled to say the least. This type of behavior is unacceptable for a person who has numerous parents relying on them to be responsible for and educate their children on a day-to-day basis.
Even though I am neither black nor white, I took great offense to this issue. The most infuriating aspect was that the superintendent, an older white male, seemingly wrote off this modern day injustice. In his response, he stated, “Sometimes a teacher makes a mistake when attempting to educate young teenagers.” (2) I completely disagree with this statement. The minds of these young teenagers are so impressionable and for an adult to request that student’s carry out such an insulting task is a defamation to contemporary morals.
In class, we discussed how jim crow laws have been paralleled with the contemporary mass incarceration of African Americans, men to be specific. By assigning this project to their students, this teacher has reinforced the continuation of oppressing African-Americans.
- Urofsky, Melvin. “Jim Crow Law | United States [1877-1954].” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 21 Apr. 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2015. <http://www.britannica.com/event/Jim-Crow-law>.
- “Teacher Suspended after Students Post ‘whites Only’ Signs at Indiana High School.” Fox 59. Associated Press, 05 Dec. 2015. Web. 08 Dec. 2015. <http://fox59.com/2015/12/05/teacher-suspended-after-students-post-whites-only-signs-at-indiana-high-school/>.
- “A Brief History of Jim Crow.” <i>- Constitutional Rights Foundation</i>. Constitutional Rights Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015. <http://www.crf-usa.org/black-history-month/a-brief-history-of-jim-crow>.
- “‘For Whites Only:’ Man in Tenn. Fired for Alleged Racism.” New Pittsburgh Courier RSS. N.p., 06 June 2014. Web. 08 Dec. 2015. <http://newpittsburghcourieronline.com/2014/06/06/for-whites-only-man-in-tenn-fired-for-alleged-racism/>.