Jim Crow's dead but the legacy lives on
Friday, March 04, 2005
American History Month just came to an end. It’s the one month out of the
year when Americans take the time to remember the late Rev. Martin Luther
King, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and all the rest of the people who made
it socially acceptable for me, and other non-white individuals, to be
sitting where I am today. For that I am thankful.
But my favorite
part of the month — and it never fails to happen — is when some person
says, “Slavery is over. Just forget about it. Get over it.”
slavery is over and folks can get over it, but if you don’t learn from
history, you’re doomed to make the same mistakes.
Not to say the
integration of blacks into American society can ever be reversed, but it
is valuable for people to remember how we got to that place in American
Simply put, hate is how that dark time in U.S. history
came about and remembering the struggle and the journey out of that period
helps prevent the perpetuation of that hate.
hate has been marketed to Americans through various venues, and it
continues today. During the Christmas season last year, I came face to
face with one of the venues in Jim Crow caricatures.
I was shopping
in a local antique store and found a large collection of what’s known as
“Jim Crow Memorabilia.” The memorabilia included dolls, ephemera such as
Valentine’s cards, household items like salt-and-pepper shakers, teapots
and cups that featured negative images of black people.
to John Thorp, director of the Ferris State University Jim Crow Museum of
Racist Memorabilia in Michigan, these things were used to not only
perpetuate racial hate but encourage white superiority.
certainly supports the continuation of hatred. It contributes to the
(negative) racial attitudes and it’s a reflection of the racial attitude,”
he said. “The first thing, before you get the hatred, you’ve got the white
racial superiority. It was a situation where these things were used to
build up white self-esteem. That they were better than black people and
undoubtedly racial hatred evolved.”
Thorp has seen these images on
everyday household items in his household when growing up.
you had a cookie jar, it was a ‘Mammy’ cookie jar. It was just an ordinary
thing. No one thought about it,” he said. “It was taken for granted. In
the late ’40s, early ’50s, white people didn’t even think about the fact
they were consuming these things.”
For me, it was different. I’ve
heard about items like these in college, but I’ve never touched them.
I’ve never looked into an a little old white lady’s eyes as she
stood next to me holding one of the “Picaninny” dolls and saying, “Oh, how
“Yes, look at the cute little picaninny,” I thought.
But, of course, it’s not proper to say that, so I just nodded and
She amused me and offended me at the same time.
let’s get into definitions. Items used to perpetuate hate of the black
race include the “picaninny” caricature.
According to the museum’s
Web site, the picaninny was meant to represent black children. These
caricatures had bulging eyes, unkempt hair, red lips and wide mouths.
Picaninnies, the site adds, were buffoons seen eating large pieces of
watermelon and fried chicken and running from alligators.
common caricature is the “Mammy.” She’s often featured as a fat,
dark-skinned black woman who loved living in the master’s house and taking
care of his children.
That image is unlikely, Thorp
Perpetuation of racial hatred always begins and ends with
children. Is it in yours?
Contact Angelica Morrison at (716)
439-9222, Ext. 6251, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any event, gathering or holiday based on race is,
by nature, a racist event. Black History month should be repealed because
it is a racist event supported by the government, not the