BLACK INTEGRATIONIST AND WHITE LIBERALS: THE WHITE BACKLASH
Neither did they know the irony they posed,
as they hardened already hate filled souls.
Ralph and Catherine were married soon after Ralph left Lane College. They had been classmates in high school. Catherine was not born in Chattanooga. She was born a few years before her parents, William (Billy) Patton and Ruby (Griffin) Patton, migrated to Chattanooga from Madison County Alabama around 1940. Catherine was two years old when Billy and Ruby Patton came to Chattanooga. The family first lived with Aunt Babe on Chandler Avenue in Alton Park. Aunt Babe's name was Ida; she had married Solomon (Saul) Sanderfur. Ida was Billy Patton's only sister and he was her only brother. Ruby Sue Griffin Patton also had one brother. Uncle Dub was given the name Everett W. Griffin. Uncle Dub to Catherine and her family was also called E.W. He and Aunt Babe left this world during the 90's while Uncle Saul passed away in the 80's.
Billy and Ruby soon found their first house down the street from Aunt Babe on Chandler Avenue. While Catherine was still a little girl the family lived briefly in St. Elmo which was south of Alton Park. They lived on Tennessee Avenue. Catherine remembers that when they lived in St. Elmo they had a big black dog. The dog would always come out to meet her father when he came home from work, always wagging his tail. They soon moved to the first public housing project in Chattanooga, College Hill Courts. Located on the Westside, the new brick structures were a great deal more hospitable than the cold water, rundown, shotgun houses most poor Blacks lived in during the 40's.
Catherine has fond memories of living in College Hill Court. She and her friends played games like house, not it and ball games. Catherine recalls that she soon developed a complex about playing ball because she was not apt at the game. Therefore often no one would choose her to play so she lost interest in the game.
The flag pole was located in the center of the projects. This was a place for kids and adults to gather. The flag pole had a good concrete surface to skate on, and Catherine was a good skater. During the summer they turned water on around the flag pole, and the kids in the projects considered this their swimming pool. During those days Catherine notes there was not a stigma attached to public housing. Thus public housing was a step up instead of a step down, because public housing was such an improvement over the available housing for poor people.
Marianne McCann Efiom, was, and still is Catherine's dear and close friend. Marianne grew up in College Hill Courts. In fact Marianne has been as close as a sister to Catherine, she has also been the writer's other big sister. Catherine recalls that she has been blessed to have a devoted and truly loyal friend over the years. Marianne like Catherine was not born in College Hill Courts. Ralph and Marianne were born in Bushtown. While Ralph stayed in Bushtown, Marianne and her family moved from Greenwood Avenue to College Hill Courts. Sarah Reed and Gwendolyn Wingfield were also close girl friends when Catherine grew up in College Hill Courts.
Billy and Ruby Sue were hard working, good parents. The family grew to include three brothers and four girls counting Catherine the oldest. Though Billy Patton was not fair skinned with white features his blood line was a mixture of African, European and Mulatto ethnic traits. Ruby Sue, who was brown skinned with dark hair, had the African presence and the features of the Native American.
They were both proud and independent and without a doubt they stood in awe of only, Almighty God. A few Blacks in the history of Black America have never felt they were inferior to white people or any other people. Ruby and Billy were of this persuasion and they taught their children that they were as good as any other human being. This sentiment of independence and self-pride was evidently passed on to them by their elders. So, while most Blacks held a fear of the white man, the Patton family held fast to their independence and inferiority was unnatural and illogical.
Catherine readily took on this attitude. She was a quiet, unassuming person who, with quiet courage, voiced her opinion on the editorial page of the Chattanooga News Free Press while, still a high school student. Catherine felt a great need to respond to the confusion over school desegregation. This was a courageous act because Blacks were not supposed to speak up for their rights nor write about them to local newspapers.
(See Appendix A Catherine's letter, also see response letter and other editorials on segregation)
Catherine's Christian attitude caused her to speak out. Catherine's response to speaking out and writing, the Chattanooga News Free Press reveals her basic principles and values. She said “I admire anyone who has the courage to stand up for what they believe in and will speak out. One should have the courage to die for whatever cause you believe in. That is why I named my first son after Stephen in the Bible who was the first Christian martyr. Stephen was filled with the Holy Ghost and preached the Gospel. For this he was stoned to death. Stephen had love for his people and even when he was being stoned to death he was praying to God to forgive the people."
Catherine was just appalled to witness the unjust treatment of Blacks by white people. Inside of her is this great love and feelings of compassion for all people Black or white. With these feelings in mind she recalled that she had to vent out her frustrations on paper. She got a response from a young white male who was afraid to sign his name to his letter. He didn't sign because his family did not share his views and he was afraid that he might be mistaken for his father. But, this was the climate in the south during the early days of the attack on segregation.
Catherine said that "speaking out has been a natural reaction for her as a person.”But, Catherine married Ralph Henry Cothran who rose through the ranks to become the first Black Police Chief in the history of Chattanooga. Then she had to take a different attitude and hold her peace because of the high profile of her husband.
Catherine attended Roosevelt University in Chicago before her and Ralph attended Lane College. Catherine attended Roosevelt for six months during the school year 1956-1957. Her mother Ruby Sue Patton had surgery back in Chattanooga and Catherine had to return home to care for her. Mrs. Patton had no sisters and Catherine was the oldest girl, so she made the decision to come home and care for her mother. During this time Ralph had taken a basketball scholarship at a small college close to the town of Greely, Colorado. Ralph and Catherine both experienced financial problems their first year in college. Anyway Ralph did not complete the year at the school in Colorado and he also returned to Chattanooga.
Ralph got a job in 1958 at the Henry Branch YMCA teaching swimming. Ralph also worked as the Director of a community center in Dalton, Georgia that is 20 miles south of Chattanooga. This is where Ralph gained his basic knowledge about working with youth that would be part of him for life. These experiences helped form his attitudes about crime prevention and his dream of broad based recreational programs for youth citywide.
Ralph did not meet Catherine until they attended Lane College. The post 1954 era was a challenging period as the nation struggled with the questions of integration versus segregation. White liberals came on the scene in support of integration. Also, many Blacks took on a philosophy of integration. What was this philosophy? Also, what was the philosophy of white liberals during this era? These questions and concerns are questions to which Ralph sought answers during his life time. In fact the multifaceted problem of race plagued him throughout his career as a law enforcement officer.
Again to bring some clarity to this discussion we will review prominent literature written during this time. The question of liberals and tokenism is brought into focus by Leroi Jones in the following quotes.
"A rich man told me recently that a liberal is a man who tells other people what to do with their money. I told him that was right from the side of the telescope he looked through, but that as far as I was concerned a liberal was a man who told other people what to do with their poverty.
I mention this peculiar American phenomenon, i.e., American Liberalism, because it is just this group of amateur social theorists, American Liberals, who have done most throughout American history to insure the success of tokenism.
Slavery was not anything but an unnecessarily cruel and repressive method of making money for the western white man. Colonialism was a more subtle, but equally repressive method of accomplishing the same end. In fact, even though the slave trade, for instance, was entered for purely commercial reasons, after a few years the more liberal-minded Americans began to try to justify it as a method of converting heathens to Christianity." 1
Jones continues his discussion and seeks to define the Black integrationists as a Black person who would side with reactionaries on matters concerning civil rights. This group of Blacks are found in the middle-class. Often these educated Blacks began to form a distinct integrationist philosophy.
The idea of tokenism in Jones' analysis merges with the integrationist philosophy. Here a neo-colonistic attitude takes hold and the absurd notion that somehow a man, usually a Black man must progress to freedom. The attitude that people must get prepared for freedom is just another game to continue the exploitation of Blacks. Many social scientists conclude that tokenism is not an abstract philosophy but a realistic part of American political life.
The question of white liberals and the Black struggle is explored in detail by James Farmer the founder of CORE.
"The issue is not militancy versus moderation. There are militants indeed and there are moderates, too, in both camps. Nor is "integration versus separation" the definitive division. Which is it--integration or separation--when a Black student joins a campus Afro-American Association after choosing freely to enter an integrated university? Then, is it youth against age? The young, it is true, carry burdens of the argument on one side, while many of their elders form the bulwark on the other. Is the question, then, "Black power?" How does one debate a slogan without a precise statement of its meaning? What is the way for Black Americans to find a meaning for their existence and to achieve dignity in the American context? Is it through assimilation? Or is it through racial cohesiveness?" 2
The essay by James Farmer makes several critical arguments. One very important argument is "do Blacks want integration or equal rights?" There is some confusion in the quest for equal rights. As this humane principle gets bogged down in a quest for integration, yes integration merely for the sake of integrating.
Integrating merely for the sake of integrating does not make sense. If this is the interest of the integrationist they also wish to assimilate. In reality there are most likely three aspects are definitive qualities ascribed to assimilation. First white people view assimilation as a way to allow token Blacks into the mainstream and to produce a superficial atmosphere of acceptance. This is an accepted attitude by white liberals who relish their Black friends, who aspire to be like them, which of course is impossible.
Secondly Blacks view assimilation as a means to integrate with white people and be accepted. Their goal is to do any and everything possible to appease whites. They will straighten their hair, lighten their skin, talk like white people and do anything to turn Black souls into what can be described as an honorary white person. In their way of thinking this is progress and equality.
The third view of assimilation comes from Blacks that view this phenomenon as counterproductive. These Blacks do not want to give up their racial identity to try to be like white people. They want equal rights but blind integration is not necessarily associated with equal rights. Thus, these Blacks want freedom, equality, dignity and respect. These Blacks are proud of their ancestry and are insulted by those who think it is important to be subservient to white and European culture.
Black Americans cannot compare themselves to the assimilation processes of the Europeans here in America. First these people are white and they do not have to deal with the legacy of slavery. For some reason the integrationist philosophy became dominant and Blacks felt they could assimilate just like Europeans. Meanwhile Blacks resisted efforts to maintain Black businesses and institutions by claiming this would keep segregation intact.
This confusion is even more pronounced when we see the paternalistic attitude of the white liberal. Thus, as Blacks have allowed the white liberal to take them by the hand like a child, they have forgotten their own neighborhoods, schools, businesses and institutions. Sadly they have convinced themselves that whatever the white man has is better. Therefore this confused Black person wants to integrate, despite the need and the attainment of equality.
It is very interesting that Farmer concludes his powerful essay with statements on education. Education clearly brought the discussion of segregation versus integration to the forefront. There is some hope evidently because at least some Blacks see a need to consider an option to integration. These Blacks see a need to control the schools in their communities. Though the effort to take control of neighborhood schools was short-lived it is still a very important statement. At least somebody considered that integration or segregation was not the problem regarding education in the Black community. The problem was, and is, quality education. Some came to believe that the only way to improve and maintain quality education was to integrate Black and white children in the same schools.
Some parents believed that integration was not necessarily a panacea for quality education. First the entire U.S. Armed Forces could not force white America to integrate the public schools. Thus, these Blacks concluded that the only sensible thing to do was to take control of their own neighborhood schools. Black parents that took this attitude insisted on having some control of teachers, administrators and the curriculum.
The white liberal’s definitive qualities and variables are explored further by Louis Lomax. "Lomax says that as one views the American populace divided along ideological rather than ethnic lines with respect to the Negro revolt--it is likely that in time the western race problem would transmute into a class problem. The Negro cause has always been laced with white people. The NAACP, Urban League and CORE were founded by Negroes and whites. The SCLC is a Negro organization but the bulk of its financing is white. And from the outset the student movement has been interracial.
Many Negroes feel that the presence of white people in Negro organizations inevitable leads to "go-slowism." They cite the NAACP and the Urban League as examples. They are refuted by CORE that has a larger contingent of white people and is by far the most militant Negro action group. Many Negroes argue against the presence of white people in Negro organizations on the ground of race pride. "The Jews would die before they would let a Negro rise to the leadership of one of their organizations. So why should we let Jews, or any white man for that matter, head our organizations?" 3
It is amazing and most interesting to see the clear and correct logic of Lomax in so many aspects of the Black experience. Lomax is credited with a sensible analysis of Jewish and Black relationships. For example Blacks were upset that in 1961 the NAACP named Jack Greenberg to succeed Thurgood Marshall as head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. These protests were clearly pro-Black and had nothing to do with Jack Greenberg being a Jew.
So if some Blacks have a problem with white people leading their organizations they also have a problem with white membership. White people when denied membership in Black organizations use spies in the Black community to infiltrate Black organizations. Blacks have used light skinned Blacks to also spy at white meetings even Klan gatherings.
All of this is true and makes sense but Lomax clearly leaves his previous sense of logic when he justifies why whites should stay in Black organizations.
"1. The first reason is historical. White liberals spoke for us when we were, for the most part, unable to speak for ourselves. They had power, we did not, they had learning, we did not; they were white, we were not, and thus they could speak without the total sense of fear that enveloped every militant Negro in the last days of the 1800's and the early days of the century.
2. The second reason is financial. In the early days white people had money, we did not, and most of the money for the major civil rights organizations comes from white money.
3. The third and most important reason is that the presence of white people in Negro organizations keeps the Negro revolt from turning into a race conflict." 4
Maybe Lomax was a militant integrationist. His views on the utility of including the white presence in all aspects of the Black experience, add to the philosophy of integration. The integrationist philosophy did not dwell in isolation as other views came into play. Kenneth B. Clark in his writings gives us a psychological analysis of aspects of the Black experience. One primary concern is the term "Black Power." What is it, what does it mean for Black progress? How does Black Power also embrace integration?
"I differ with early Gunnar Myrdal only in my belief that the American democratic creed and ideals are not psychologically contradictory to American racism. In terms of dynamics and motivation of the insecure, they are compatible.
The demand for racial justice on the part of American Negroes is balanced by an almost equal psychological reality, of the fear of the removal of racial barriers. The hopes and beliefs of the Negro that racial equality and democracy could be obtained through litigation, legislation, executive action and negotiation and through strong alliances with various white liberal groups, were supplanted by disillusionment, bitterness, and anger which erupted under the anguished cry of "Black Power" which pathetically is sought to disguise the understandable desperation and impotence with bombast and rhetoric." 5
White backlash stepped to the forefront to answer the cry for "Black Power." Clearly “Black Power" did not cause the white backlash. The historic rhetoric of racism and all its components was well established, since the birth of the nation. June 1966 was the birth of "Black Power” which launched a new contemporary phenomenon that had to be reckoned with.
Clark says "Black Power'" emerged as a response to the following facts:
"1. A recognition of the fact that the center gravity of the civil rights movement had moved to the northern, urban, racial, ghettos, where it was immobilized by white resistance for significant change for Blacks.
2. Recognition that successful litigation, strong legislation, free access to public accommodations, open housing, the right to vote to hold office and yet Blacks are still in poverty in the ghetto.
3. Despite the war on poverty and the Great Society Blacks still are regulated to inferior schools, unemployed and underemployed." 6
"Black Power" advocates had a legitimate concern and right to express a non- accommodation's view point. Here they sought only the right to be granted basic constitutional rights. Booker T. Washington was accepted by white America but militants were not accepted.
Clark on a final note talks about the cleavage between the Black middle class and the masses. In this instance the masses concluded that recent civil rights victories had benefited only a small percentage of the Black community.
The masses live in the ghetto. In a further study Clark analyzes the ghetto and the people in it. The social dynamics of the ghetto are a different sort than the circumstance of those that live in middle-class neighborhoods. Usually whites see Blacks as inferior thus Clark feels that accepting Blacks as equals is what really terrifies the white community.
Ghetto schools in Chattanooga and elsewhere in the U.S. were separate and unequal. Ralph had attended segregated schools all his life. He would always remember the resistance to change. The white backlash is seen most vividly as Blacks and liberals challenge the customs and laws that govern public education throughout the nation.
"School segregation in the south had, for generations, been supported by law; in the north, segregation has been supported by community custom and indifference. It is assumed that children should go to school where they live, and if they live in segregated neighborhoods, the schools are, as a matter of course segregated.
"Segregation and inferior education reinforce each other. Some persons take the position that the first must go before the second does; others, that the reverse is true." 7
The confusion of Black integrationist and white liberals has had a direct affect on the reactions of many whites. The white people that often react to the integrationist and liberals are often called racists. Some truly are racists but many of these white people are just responding to custom and law. So as Blacks and their supporters seek to integrate public schools, whites flee. White people all across America, not only in Chattanooga have sent their children to private or parochial schools. So schools have remained segregated even when Blacks moved into a previously all white community.
The impossible task of integrating the public schools in America put school districts throughout the nation in a dilemma. Since integrationist thought that equality in education for Blacks was only achieved through Blacks and whites attending the same schools, the quest for integration was eternal. So instead of seeking improved neighborhood schools, integrationist chased the last remnants of the white student population throughout their school district.
"One of the remedies for segregation has been long-distance transportation of elementary school pupils, or "busing." This plan seems to offer immediate desegregation, but in many cases it would lead to bad education and, in the end, therefore to even more segregation.
"Therefore, any effective plan must (1) reduce school segregation; (2) bring better educational services; and (3) hold white pupils, even bring more back into the public school system." 8
Busing has been considered forced desegregation. White people have organized to counter this tactic to integrate the schools. The result has been to place their children in private schools. Poor whites that have not been able to afford private schools have been left behind.
Logically one would conclude that the quality of education should have nothing to do with income or status. Here ghetto schools should be equal to schools in affluent areas. This promotes people like Clark to argue. "The goals of integration and quality education must be sought together; they are interdependent. One is not possible without the other." 9 When this premise is challenged the civil rights activists and integrationist claim that Blacks that want excellent ghetto schools only want to keep segregation intact. What is wrong with quality schools in our own neighborhoods? Why do some Blacks feel that quality education can only be achieved by going to schools with white children?
To answer these questions some Blacks and whites have noted that most Black students are inferior academically to white students. Here they feel that all Black segregated schools are inherently inferior academically. Thus white people that flee integrated schools strongly feel that academically inferior Black students justify segregation. Tragically some middle-class Blacks have come to conclude that their children are more adaptable to integration than poor Blacks. The confusion continues regarding integration or quality education. Does integration automatically mean quality education?
Those that became integrationist took on feelings of inferiority. Integration soon also came to be a means to spite white people. Meanwhile, alleged Black inferiority and the childish spite game became the gross contradiction of the integrationist. The reality of Black survival depends on our establishing an economic base. Thus, civil rights should mean economic rights first. White people and even the white liberals and the integrationist Jewish supporters have wanted Blacks to continue to be economically dependent on white America.
"Seventy years ago, for example, both Booker T. Washington, the great apostle of accommodation, and W.E.B. DuBois, the great militant, were urging Negroes to go into business in order to develop the wealth and power they needed to change their position in American society. Their exhortations were in vain; if anything, Negro business is relatively less important now than at the turn of the century.
"Only about 100 thousand Negroes in the U.S. operate their own businesses or hold managerial positions; beauty parlors, barber shops, undertaking, and cosmetic manufacturing are the only kinds of Negro businesses which provide significant numbers of jobs for other Negroes or produce substantial revenue. Negro insurance companies, banks, and publishing companies are important symbolically as evidence of Negro achievement, but they account for very little wealth or employment." 10
The erosion of Black economic development has had a significant decline as integration has spread. Since the 1960's Chattanooga and other cities have seen traditional Black businesses disappear. When Ralph grew up in Bushtown during 1940 and 1950 Jews were the people outside the Black community who operated businesses that catered to Black people. There were also a variety of Black businesses in Black neighborhoods. These businesses consisted of barber and beauty shops to drugstores and dry-cleaning establishments. etc. People foreign to the Black community have always invaded our communities and sold us goods and services. Historically these businesses replaced Black businesses. Eventually new foreigners only replaced other people that are foreign to the Black community.
Presently the most impacting aspect of this ongoing destruction and deterioration of Black businesses is the attack on the last independent Black businesses left in the Black community. Beauty-shops and barber shops that cater to "Black people are noted throughout Black America. These shops are owned and operated by Blacks.
Creative and capitalistic Koreans are making progress to control this industry. Koreans have already locked down the nail and manicure business in the Black community thus dominating this market and running many Blacks out of the business. Meanwhile, these very industrious, eager Korean merchants have been allowed to set up nail businesses inside many Black beauty shops.
So while they securely corner the nail business they are quietly learning how to do Black folks hair. Koreans have established businesses in the nail and hair care products industry. Meanwhile, Koreans have already established interest in a few Black beauty shops. The manufacture of cosmetics and hair care products for Blacks at once was controlled by Black manufacturers. Tragically since the civil rights era Blacks have lost considerable influence in manufacturing and in the distribution of Black hair care products. The evidence of Korean hair care shops throughout the Black community clearly reveals that these people have a virtual monopoly on Black hair care products.
We need a monopoly on rice. It is impossible for Blacks to have a monopoly on rice. So how did Asians come by monopolizing products that we spend billions on yearly? Black funeral homes are also traditional Black businesses. Blacks have always buried their own and Black morticians have always been an established and respected business entity in our communities. Since the 1960's once again there has been an ongoing attack on this bastion of Black businesses.
While the Asians seek to wipe out our ownership in the hair care industry, white corporations seek to takeover our undertaking needs. Throughout America large white corporations are buying the largest and most prestigious Black funeral homes. The biggest and the best are not the only targets because the strategy is to buy all the funeral homes in the Black community if possible. The business strategy is to undersell the other small Black funeral homes thus running them out of business. The saddest side to this story is the Black owners of these establishments that sell out. Black people were bought and sold on slave auction blocks and are still up for sale a century and a half later.
So as the Black community is held in a dependent position many factors contribute to our inability to enter the American system of free enterprise. Many Blacks also suffer from enormous inferiority complexes. Thus some scholars of the Black experience argue that these Blacks are unwilling to compete in an integrated society.
"As the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights concluded sadly in 1961, a principle reason for continued Negro poverty is "the lack of motivation on the part of many Negroes to improve their educational and occupational status." 11
Apathy and more explicitly self-hatred is the leading cause for the conclusions of Black inferiority. The demeaning legacy of slavery has caused many Black people to hate themselves. Since they hate themselves so much they try to be like white people. This confusing love/hate relationship causes this confused Negro to attempt to lose his identity and take on the culture of another race of people.
Since many confused Blacks have accepted the notion of inferiority by their actions, their subservient status has been justified by white racists. Here slavery and segregation have been justified. The contemporary intellectual racist makes a strong argument regarding Black inferiority by referring to IQ scores. They have also established a measuring stick of Blackness. This measuring stick compares skin color and hair texture of Blacks to that of white people.
"Liberals have countered the racist argument, moreover, by calling it a stereotype, as if labeling the argument disposed of it. It does not: on the contrary, the stereotype is at least partly a description of reality. That is to say, Negroes do display less ambition than whites; as we have seen; apathy (with the self-hatred that produces it) is the worst disease of the Negro slum. Negroes do have "looser morals": there is no belying the promiscuity of the Negro slum dweller or the high and apparently growing rate of illegitimacy. The Negro crime rate is substantially higher than the white. Negroes do "care less for family"; the rate of separation is six times greater among Negro families than among the white. Negroes score lower on IQ tests than whites of comparable socioeconomic status and Negro children do poorer work in school." 12
The previous statement by Silberman has some merit. Like so many Negro, white liberal and Jewish liberal writers, Silberman exaggerates. For example Blacks do have a high rate of illegitimacy but to say Blacks have "looser morals" is an exaggeration. Once we weed out the exaggerations in Silberman's statement we can place it in perspective. For the record Silberman concludes his argument on Black stereotypes with a statement that for the most part is accurate.
“To acknowledge these unpleasant facts, however, does not imply that they are inherent characteristics or that they reflect intrinsic Negro inferiority. On the contrary, every one of them can be explained by the facts of Negro history in the U.S. In denying the existence of these traits white and Black liberals merely betrayed their uneasy suspicion that perhaps the racists are right after all. They obviously are afraid that to admit the existence of unflattering traits of character or performance would be to admit that Negroes are inferior." 13
The truth of the matter is that many Blacks have been born and breed in an environment of inferiority. In this instance these Blacks exhibit many characteristics that reflect Black inferiority. Thus, the soldiers of the rebellion have been limited. Meanwhile, the struggle and confusion continue. As early as 1905 there was a clear cleavage between accommodation and integration. Lerone Bennett states "the Negro rebellion began not in Montgomery in 1955, not in Greensboro in 1960, not in Birmingham in 1963, but in Boston in 1905. William Monroe Trotter who started it all was the last abolitionist and the first modern rebel. With a commitment to integration and revolt, Trotter was the advance man of a new breed of Black rebels who flushed out the renaissance of the Negro soul.
"Trotter was haunted by the creeping misery of the Negro masses and the surging tide of accommodation. With scarcely a backward glance, Trotter repudiated the elite and became an activist. Aided by George Forbes, another well-educated member of the Boston elite, Trotter founded the Boston Guardian in 1901 and dedicated his life to the destruction of Booker T. Washington and the ideas he represented." 14
During Trotter's day and time his integrationist viewpoints were considered militant and radical. Unfortunately early integrationist like Trotter did not visualize the negative aspects of integration. No doubt Trotter and his supporters confused integration with equal rights for Blacks. This period, like the contemporary period, has recognized accommodationist, integrationist and Black Nationalist theories and ideas. I would argue that the period of slavery held only two motivations for slaves. There were the house slaves who mostly were accommodationist. Then there was the field slave who often would run to freedom and to rebellion.
Accommodation and Uncle Tom Negroes are loved by white America. No doubt from the turn of the century until the modern civil rights era accommodation and integration stifled Black Nationalism. Black Nationalism would have a rebirth at the height of the modern civil rights era. The birth of the civil rights movement "came December 1, 1955 when Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus in Montgomery, Alabama. And the Negro revolt is properly dated from the moment Mrs. Parks said "no" to the bus driver's demand that she get up and let a white man have her seat." 15
Mrs. Parks was a product of the times in which she lived. Black people were hopeful for some changes regarding equal rights since the end of WWII. Jim Crow and segregation was a thorn in the side of southern Blacks and they were tired. Rosa Parks exemplified the attitude of many Blacks who had gotten fed up with the restrictions placed on them by Jim Crow laws and customs.
The white response to Blacks disobeying Jim Crow laws was to arrest and punish the individual. For all practical purposes southern custom allowed Blacks to be beaten or lynched for getting out of place. By 1955 white Americans moved by racism had gotten more civilized and seldom openly beat Blacks or lynched them publicly.
Nonetheless Mrs. Parks was arrested for refusing to give her seat to a white man. Black leaders in Montgomery, fed up with abuse and the slave time attitude of the white power structure in Montgomery, planned a boycott of the city buses.
Martin Luther King, a young minister accepted the job of distributing flyers announcing the boycott to the Black community. A few days later an organization was formed and named the Montgomery Improvement Association and Martin Luther King was chosen as the leader. The Montgomery Improvement Association did not ask for the end to segregation in Montgomery. They instead noted three concerns:
"1. Negro bus riders be given courteous treatment.
2. All bus riders be seated on a first-come, first-served basis; that Negroes would sit from the back toward the front; the white passengers from the front toward the rear.
3. Negro drivers be hired on routes that served predominantly Negro sections." 16
The NAACP did not support the efforts of this new organization because they did not ask for the end of segregated seating. Meanwhile, the white backlash escalated into acts of violence against Blacks. Also, King and other leaders of the movement were jailed on various trumped up charges. The white backlash and the callous resistance by white racist caused the Montgomery bus boycott to eventually attack segregation. With the direct attack on segregation the NAACP brought in their support. On May 11, 1956 the legal counsel for the NAACP argued the case before the federal district court.
Robert Carter, legal counsel for the NAACP was successful and the court ruled against segregated seating on city buses. By October the Supreme Court upheld the decision by the lower court. The success of the Montgomery bus boycott was a great inspiration for Blacks throughout the south. The Montgomery Improvement Association became the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). As a national organization based in Atlanta the SCLC made segregated bus conditions the focus of their civil rights efforts.
But, how deeply rooted is segregation and Jim Crow in the south? Consider the following statement by Lomax.
"Six years later King leaves Montgomery. The buses are integrated but the schools are not; neither are the parks, playgrounds nor any other public facilities. And one of the questions now plaguing social scientists is why such a deep-rooted movement as the Montgomery boycott resulted in nothing more than the integration of the busses. " 17
King and his followers had nonetheless taken the vanguard in the struggle for equality. In so doing King brought to the table a distinct philosophy and strategy. This philosophy was Ghandism.
"Ghandism was not an entirely new development in the ghetto. In the early twenties, when Ghandi began his nonviolent resistance campaign in India, hearts picked up and men said, why not here? E. Franklin Frazier, an angry young man of the day, examined the matter at some length in the Crisis and counseled against Ghandism.
"All in all, Frazier concluded, nonviolence was neither practical nor expedient. He did not believe in "wholesale violence," but he was convinced that violent defense in local and specific instances has made white men hesitate to make wanton attacks upon Negroes." 18
Frazier no doubt saw nonviolence much different from Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Most likely Frazier felt awkward praying for a racist, who does not believe in God. Frazier also realized that no man respects another man that begs on his knees. Thus Frazier and others have concluded nonviolence brought disrespect to the Black man, woman and child. Martin Luther King was the champion of the contemporary nonviolent movement in America. His philosophy of nonviolence propelled the civil rights movement and became the lesser of three evils. Similar to Booker T. Washington, King became the chosen Black leader with a wide degree of acceptance by white people.
Again the American Black experience produced:
1. Integrationist philosophy driven by the tenets of nonviolence. This cadre of leadership and followers essentially felt begging the white man for equal rights would be best for Black people.
2. Separatist philosophy driven by Black Nationalism and if you attack me I will attack you in return. This cadre of leadership and followers refused to beg the white man for anything. Thus, they were insulted by the attempts of other Blacks to lick the backside of the white man.
3. Militant philosophy that was also driven by Black Nationalism and the critique of capitalism. This cadre of leadership and followers refused to allow the continuation of blatant violence in their communities, committed by the police or any white people. They also demanded respect from whites and would die before they would get on their knees and beg the white man for anything.
To understand clearly what King meant by nonviolence you must examine five basic aspects of the nonviolent philosophy for Blacks struggling for equal rights in America:
"First, it must be emphasized that nonviolent resistance is not a method for cowards; it does resist. If one uses this method because he is afraid or merely because he lacks the instruments of violence, he is not truly nonviolent. " 19
Regarding human behavior and human response it can be argued that there are only two responses to violence. One logically is of course meeting violence with violence to halt it or gain relief. The second logical response is to do nothing to defend yourself against violence, except shield your body or run away. Ghandism and the nonviolent philosophy developed by King developed another response to violence. In their view nonviolence meant accepting any verbal or physical abuse from, for example, white merchants when attempting to desegregate a lunch counter. Meanwhile you prayed that your attacker would come to love you as you loved him. But King did not see this philosophy as a method of stagnant passivity.
"The phrase "passive resistance" often gives the false impression that this is a sort of "do-nothing method" in which the resister quietly and passively accepts evil." 20
The nonviolent resister is passive in that he is not physically aggressive toward his opponent. But King argues that his mind and body, his emotions are constantly working to convince his opponent that he is wrong. So instead of being active physically the nonviolent resister becomes active spiritually. The masses from time immemorial have had a bout with ignorance. Thus, throughout our various leadership ranks, certain philosophies have defied all sense and logic but have been a driving force for many who chose that leader.
What if we didn't have those brave but foolish souls called passive resisters? White America most likely should give King some honors because King headed off a bloody and ugly confrontation between white racism and Black pride.
"A second fact that characterizes nonviolence is that it does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding." 21
So while protesting through boycotts, the nonviolent protester seeks to bring to life the sense of moral shame in his opponent. Thus, the nonviolent resister seeks redemption and reconciliation. They further conclude that the result of violence is bitterness while the result of nonviolence is love.
"A third characteristic of this method is that the attack is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who happen to be doing the evil.
"A fourth point that characterizes nonviolent resistance is a willingness to accept suffering without retaliation, to accept blows from the opponent without striking back.”Rivers of blood may have to flow before we gain our freedom, but it must be our blood," Ghandi said to his fellow citizens. The nonviolent resister is willing to accept violence if necessary, but never to inflict it. He does seek to dodge jail. If going to jail is necessary, he enters it "as a bridegroom enters the bride's chambers.
"A fifth point concerning nonviolent resistance is that it avoids not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. The nonviolent resister not only refuses to shoot his opponent but he also refuses to hate him. At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. "
The nonviolent philosophy was a cornerstone for theories on integration. Many integrationists felt for sure that they could transport love to the white man. Therefore, they could achieve integration. Segregation did come to an end in many instances throughout the south. But the love of white people by Blacks and the love of Blacks by white people are difficult to measure.
The 50's had by now passed to the turbulent 60's. Catherine and Ralph had gone on to college. College campuses would soon become the launching pad for the student civil rights movement.
1. Arthur Littleton &, Mary Burger Editors, Black View Points, New America Library, New York, 1971. Excerpts from Leroi Jones, "Tokenism: 300 Years For Five Cents," Home: Social Essays, William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1966, pp-80-83.
2. Ibid., James Farmer, "Are White Liberals Obsolete In the Black Struggle," The Progressive XXII, January 1968, pp. 13-16.
3. Louis E. Lomax, The Negro Revolt, Harper & Row, New York, 1971, pp. 194-203.
4. Ibid., p. 196.
5. Littleton & Burger Editors, op. cit., pp. 95-100.
6. Ibid., pp. 97-98. Kenneth B. Clark, "The Present Dilemma of the Negro," The Journal of Negro History, LIII, January, 1968.
7. Kenneth Clark, Dark Ghetto, Dilemmas of Social Power, Harper & Row Pub., New York, 1965, pp. 22-125.
8. Ibid., p. 115.
9. Ibid., p. 117.
10. Charles E. Silberman, Crisis In Black and White, Vintage Books A Division of Random House, New York, 1964, pp. 68-69.
11. Ibid., p. 71.
12. Ibid., p. 74.
13. Ibid., p. 74.
14. Lerone Bennett, Confrontation Black & White, Johnson Publishing Co., Inc., Chicago, 1965, pp. 113-114.
15. Lomax, op. cit., pp. 92-107.
16. Ibid., pp. 93-94.
17. Ibid., p. 95.
18. Lerone Bennett, op. cit., p. 185-186.
19. Joanne Grant, Editor, Black Protest-History, Documents, and Analyses 1619 To Present, Fawcett Publications, Inc., 1968. Excerpts from "Nonviolence and the Montgomery Boycott," Martin Luther King, Stride Toward Freedom, Harper & Brothers, Inc., New York, pp. 83-85.
20. Ibid., p. 281.
21. Ibid., p. 281.
22. Ibid., pp. 281-282.