Sunday, August 17, 2014

Is the Ferguson, Missouri mess a mere verbal reminder of Plessy v. Ferguson --- or is it a 2014 version of same thing happening all over again

Remember in 1954 when nine wacky white  guys said let's overturn Plessy v. Ferguson, start all over and  get it right this time ?   How's that been workin' lately ?

How is it that in 2014,  a mostly white police force, enforces the law in a mostly black Ferguson, Missouri  ? 

At 11 O'clock on Sunday mornings, what are the most segregated places in America  ---   at least a few people think it  might well be most   of its Christian Churches

People might have forgotten that Missouri was part of de jure segregated America in 1954, so was the place where I now am writing this nugget, central Florida.  hat and a few other things made me think of rhetorically linking the whole Michael Brown tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri with the much despised late 19th Century Plessy v. Ferguson Decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. So far the only similar linkage of sorts was only done by what looks like a bunch of left wing bomb-throwers (See "Fight to stop police terror - justice for Michael Brown!" by Freedom Road Socialist Organization, 8/12/14, Fight Back! News []).

In 1954  Kansas was a little more complicated place than Missouri (historically possibly due to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the holding of Supreme Court in the Dred Scott v. Sanford), some counties and school districts  were segregated and some weren't. Perhaps coincidentally in 1954, it was the state where the still kind of new President Eisenhower (who had recently appointed Earl Warren as Chief Justice) was born, and by some kind of geometrics, Kansas was also the geographical center of the United States. The city of Topeka, Kansas is in Shawnee County in the North East quadrant of the state.  In a short sound-bitten sort of way, it was a great place for a race case.  And, oh what a race case it was -- Oliver Brown, et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, et al. [citations omitted] --  it was a major victory of the civil rights movement  that overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, which had allowed state-sponsored segregation in public education.

The Warren Court's unanimous (9–0) decision was handed down on May 17, 1954 and stood for the proposition that "[racially] separate educational facilities are inherently unequal." As a result, de jure racial segregation in public schools was ruled a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. According to some observers, this ruling paved the way for integration of public schools and gave impetus to other aspects of the civil rights movement.  The U.S. High Court saw it as a necessary step to continue or even restart the march toward racial justice and the elimination of all taint of slavery ninety years after the ending of all chattel slavery for the descendants of all those Africans enslaved in Africa and involuntarily imported into America,as well as the generations born into slavery in the United States. More than anything else, Brown v. Board of Ed. should have relegated Plessy v. Ferguson to the dust bin of history. But did it ?

It's been sixty years since the Supreme Court decided the Brown case that arguably was the beginning of the end of de jure racial segregation.  So how has the racial justice and the elimination of the taint of slavery thing been going in America ?

How is it that a mostly white police force, enforces the law in a mostly black Ferguson, Missouri? Even under something like Plessy v. Ferguson,  all-white cops with guns [and then armored cars, APCs and other heavy weapons] against all-black "suspects" or "non-suspects" [and then demonstrators] without guns would certainly appear to be separate but not very equal.  But what do I know, maybe one side having the guns and heavy military style equipment; versus the other side with the streets and strip malls, and the favorable coverage in the media is how some people might define "separate but equal" in 2014.

What everybody seems to agree on is that what's gone on and is going on in Ferguson, Missouri isn't where America should be at this time.  Beyond that, it gets very fuzzy, very fast.

OK then, are places like Missouri and Kansas so very different from Brooklyn ?  How about Staten Island ?

The current racial State of the Union in the "post-Brown v. Board of Ed." --  "post-Civil Rights era" America of 2014 is an uncomfortable largely de facto racially segregated American with some notable exceptions. The cusps and fault lines go through areas like Ferguson, Missouri (and maybe even parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island, too).

Today my priest here in central Florida gave a homily about "outsiders" and "other people" based on Jesus' tough, dare I say harsh, treatment of an annoying Canaanite woman.  Relax, due to the woman's persistence and Jesus' intent to use her as a teaching tool, it all turned out OK, with Jesus extolling, as a woman of great faith and persistance, the annoying "outsider" to the community he was primarily  addressing.  The priest then GENTLY tied it all to what is going on in  Ferguson, Missouri.  Then the priest asked the congregants to look around and asked " What do you see -- this is typical of churches all across America."  The congregation looked around and saw  about 90-95% white people with a smatering of darker looking people, but only a couple or a few that were recognizably black or brown  African-Americans.  He pointed out that there are corresponding congregations of various denominations both nearby and around the country that are equally Black or Latino.  Then he said,  "At the hours between ten and one on Sunday, the most segregated places in the country are its churches.  There is no law that makes it that way, so why is it like that ?   I know some of you will talk to me later and say that's the way the people want it.  But don't come up and say anything like that, unless you can also answer this:  'How Christian is that ?' "

Before anybody says that this is just some crazy Floridian priest,  let me point out that  he's originally from Bensonhurst and is a graduate of Xaverian H.S. in Bay Ridge....

Let's revisit all of this in an analysis of the "them against us" politics involved in Staten Island --- after the "Sharpton march" on Staten Island related to the "homicide"  of Eric Garner while in police custody.  (btw, the "Fight back! News" article cited above was none to happy about the handling of the  Eric Garner case either.)


Anonymous said...

Interesting piece, well written, and you brought it all back to Grimm.

Anonymous said...

Lets not forget it 25 years ago this week that the Yusef Hawkins incident went down in Bensonhurst.

Anonymous said...

Out of date civil services laws and policeman's unions are impedimental things to a police force that are reflective of a changing community. No matter what: black, white, spanish, orientals, arabs or combined groups in one place.

Anonymous said...

"Annoying" woman? Really. A powerless disenfranchised female outcast challenging a male Church authority figure named Jesus. I'd call that courage. Tenacity. Strength. But "annoying"? Gee, that is so GOP of you. . .

Remember, those Bay Ridge Catholic Masses that are so white on Sunday mornings (is Ephrem's still the whitest? I recall they had the Clarance Norman fliers tucked inside the bulletin.)are also the same parishes whose Catholic elementary schools across the street are the most diverse on Monday morning. Let us not forget the work of our parochial schools throughout the Diocese in providing a life line to many minority families along the way. Our schools always bucked the trend when it came to ethnicity.