Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Dead Racist Blogging: Blaming the Victim Edition

Plessy v. Ferguson allowed "separate but equal" to remain the law of the land, and so for the decades that followed we had segregated facilities and institutions under the premise that they would provide equal comfort and utility to each race. This of course was a fantasy--facilities for blacks were regularly inferior to those for whites. Why did this happen? Let's ask Congressman Frank Clark of Florida:
While on this phase of the subject, Mr. Speaker, I desire to refer to the unsupported, bald declarations of gentlemen that negroes are not supplied with accommodations equal to those furnished to white people upon railroads in the South. Why gentlemen will persist in these statements I can not understand. Let me suggest something here that in all probability these gentlemen have never thought of. On our Florida railroads--and I presume it is the same in other Southern states--the cars furnished for negro passengers are just as good as those furnished for white passengers. I am free to admit, however, that they do not long remain as good, as comfortable, and as clean as do those set apart for white passengers. You will not have to search long for the reason of this change. The average negro is perfectly happy when he finds himself eating a watermelon or going on a railroad excursion. The railroad companies in the South cater to this weakness of the negro for riding on trains, and scarcely a week passes in the summer time that a negro excursion is not "pulled off" in every neighborhood. They flock to these excursion trains by thousands and of course the cars set apart for the negroes on the regular passenger trains are used for negro excursions.

Imagine a nice, new passenger coach, packed with dirty, greasy, filthy negroes, down South, in midsummer, and you can readily understand why that car does not long remain as good, as clean, and as desirable as a similar car occupied exclusively by white travelers. It is said of Sam Jones, the great Georgia revivalist, that on one occasion a certain Northern gentleman asked him if there was very much difference in the instincts of a "nigger" and a white man. Sam replied that he didn't know as to that, but of one thing he was absolutely sure, and that was that there was a vast difference in the "out stinks" of the two.

--Quoted in I. A. Newby, The Development of Segregationist Thought, p. 94

It was commonplace for whites to blame blacks for the discriminations whites inflicted on them, but it was rarely so blatant and so unabashedly declared.

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