R13 - Surviving Jim Crow: In-Depth Essay By Ronald L. F....

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Surviving Jim Crow: In-Depth Essay By Ronald L. F. Davis, Ph. D. The Supreme Court's sanctioning of segregation (by upholding the "separate but equal" language in state laws regarding public schools) in the Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896, and the federal government's failure to enact anti-lynching laws or to supervise voter election methods in the South, meant that southern blacks were left to their own devices for surviving Jim Crow. The lynchings, segregation, political disfranchisement, and economic impoverishment were compounded by the social humiliations of a rigidly imposed color line that dominated black-white relations. From 1876 to the 1960s, the story of that survival is one of great courage by African Americans. It was a daily battle for one's life, self-respect, and basic civil rights. For most African Americans, this struggle forged a strength of character and an incredible sense of endurance that enabled them not only to survive individually but to prevail culturally as well. It is an epic tale of endurance and survival that ranks among the great, tragic feats of heroism in American and world history. Living "Behind the Veil:" Tactics of Accommodation For the vast majority of southern blacks, the terror of Jim Crow meant that they were forced to live "behind the veil," in the words of the black intellectual, W.E.B. Du Bois. Scholars refer to these masking tactics as "dissembling," or a psychological ploy in which blacks assumed the appearances of non-confrontation. For Du Bois, this life of masking created a "double consciousness" for blacks: the awareness, driven home by the racist institutions and all-present racial stereotypes, that one was both an American and yet deemed inferior by the larger society because of one's African origins. American but not American. Du Bois writes of it this way: "It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at oneself through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity." To cope with the fact that whites refused to acknowledge the humanity of black Americans, most blacks had to mask their true feelings and actual personalities whenever they were in the presence of white people. Sometimes, this masking meant shuffling and feigning irresponsibility; and sometimes it meant turning the other cheek and walking away rather than responding to white insults. But almost always, it meant conforming to a pattern of racial etiquette in day-to-day affairs. Blacks avoided looking whites in the eyes; and black males and youths knew not to look, even indirectly, at white women or to touch them accidentally. Blacks were expected to stare at the ground when addressing whites of both sexes. Black customers usually were not served first in stores when white customers were present. They usually were not allowed to try on clothing in white businesses, as it was commonly believed that white customers would not purchase clothes
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This note was uploaded on 01/11/2012 for the course RACE REL 790:333 taught by Professor Williegin during the Fall '11 term at Rutgers.

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R13 - Surviving Jim Crow: In-Depth Essay By Ronald L. F....

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