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August 2006


            “Certainly African Americans as a group has never had it so good,” writes “A State of Black America” editor Lee A. Daniels, in the book’s forward. If one were look back in black history, they would agree with his statement. Forced school segregation, Jim Crow laws, and being separate but equal ideas are no longer infesting America.

            Today black America is, as it always was, substantially poor, working poor and working class, but its college-educated, white-collar middleclass has grown significantly. One would ask are these results of ending segregation? Has economical and family life of black people gotten better or worse over 40 years? Statistics-wise, one would say it’s gotten better. More black children are graduating from high school and going into college. More black businesses are growing every year. On the surface, race relations are at its best. On a whole, black America is at its best. Individually, from each single neighborhood to every city, black America is not at its best. Integration was fought for during the Civil Rights Movement. It was a simple idea for all people that was not thought out all the way through. If civil rights leaders would have been able to look in the future, certain decisions may have been changed. Integration was one of the ‘good turned bad idea’ that affected black America. It implied that black people couldn’t make it on their own-that they couldn’t really be human until they were integrated into white America.

            The first Jim Crow law came around in 1815 by separating blacks and whites on trains, in depots, and wharves. Soon after, more laws banned blacks from white hotels, barbershops, restaurants, and theaters. In 1896, the Supreme Court upheld segregation in its separate but equal doctrine set forth in Plessy v. Ferguson.  Blacks started to silently question this separate but equal. Blacks had schools but they were usually placed in old shacks and barns. The teachers of these schools were not completely educated. Most of them may have gotten an eighth grade education, which furthered the cycle of illiteracy. They had hospitals but they were usually too far away whereas the white hospital was closer. The Jim Crow laws belittled black Americans on day-to-day basis from where to walk to where to sit to what to answer to. On the other side of the wall, however, there were full black communities. They used their collective energies to build churches, social service organizations, and business organizations that were devoted to group progress. They ran their own schools that encouraged educational advancement and started their own colleges and universities. They built their own banks and filled them up with black dollars. Under segregation, black America did have to use words like role models because that was what everyone was in the black community. Black people supported black people.

            By 1900, the color line had been drawn so well that many institutions-hotels, theaters, restaurants, railroad trains and depots, schools, parks, etc. –had established racial lines that could not be breached. Soon black America’s spirit was getting beaten down. It did not seem to matter whether or not one was living in the North or the South. The severity of lynchings and beatings were getting worse and there were not any practiced laws to protect them. The inspiration of integration started to grow with black America and white liberals. If the two worlds came together, eventually black America would be seen as equal Americans and things would change.

            In 1954, Brown vs. Topeka case shook the nation. This case was supposed to change the look of racism and segregation, but by the end of 20th century, many public schools remained largely segregated. In fact, the results of the case did a different turn. Instead of giving black schools equal opportunities, the Brown vs. Topeka decision closed black schools, demoted black principals to teachers, reduced the number of black teachers altogether. The bus went one way for long hours requiring early risings and little black parental involvement. Now black students would not only have to prove themselves twice as much but also had to endure the constant taunting and harassment from the other students and sometimes the teacher. A clear cut example of this would be about the great Malcolm X. He not only was ridiculed everyday from his white peers but his teacher advised him to be a carpenter as opposed to a lawyer. Slowly but surely, the striving student feels lower. Integrating the school system began to place more on the child’s shoulders more than ever before.

            During segregation, black America had black businesses. They employed black people, serviced black people, and brought money into the black community. These businesses did not have all the top equipment like the white businesses but it was growing. Black America soon saw the differences the two business worlds and decided that it was not right. “Since I worked for whitey, I should be able to eat and sleep where whitey eats and sleeps…” was said by the late Huey P. Newton, the co-leader of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Black America started to realize that their money should be able to be spent wherever they want to go. Black people were not satisfied and wanted a change. This change spawned the Civil Rights Movement. Black America had leaders such Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Medger Evers, and Malcolm X. All three began to preach about the race problems and how to fix them. Out of the three, Malcolm X, at one time, preached integration amongst the black people. He asked black America why would they want to sit next to the man who brutalized them. Why would black America want to send their children to a school that did not teach all of the history? Before his death, Malcolm X rethought his ideas. It wasn’t so much as black unity within each other as opposed to black supremacy. Malcolm X was assassinated after the laws were changed. Which idea would have beneficial? Now on the surface, the laws went from separate but equal to all men are created equal. Did that mean, however, that just because it was turned into a law, that it would be practiced? History has shown that it has not been practiced. The only case that affected black America and has been practiced by white America was the Dred Scott case, which stated that black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect.

            Today black America makes up 34 percent of the population and make up nearly 46 percent of retailers and spenders. How, why it is that black America only spend three percent of their money with African American businesses. When integration came, it meant that those who could afford it and qualified were integrated into white society, while the rest stayed behind. Black people left black businesses and worked at white corporations. Instead of the majority of workers being black, it was now maybe just two or three and they usually were men. Today’s black America loves fast food but do not own any major fast food restaurants. Black America loves peanuts but do not own any peanut farms. Black America works for the majority of white businesses and take their money to white banks. Integration brought on the lack of support of black communities and black businesses.

            Black America got the equal opportunities for education, for power, and for advancement. In the midst of planning a better life for black Americans, they began to lose themselves and their identity. America is better without the Jim Crow laws but with integration, it has broken down black America. Until black Americans build their own economic base by doing at least 35 percent of their business with one another, saving and investing their money in their own community, support historically black colleges and entrepreneurship within the black community, black America will stay in the same place.


Cassandra Daniels 2006