Jim Crow Law

Rant 2, Mr. Jim Crow 3/26/21

When you point a finger at white folks and use the word racist for the whole, whites get upset being called racist. It used to be a badge of honor that even preachers held on too. As a baby boomer born into racist America at the end of WW II, I didn’t know what a black person was and if I had not seen them with my on eyes in my small southern town, I would totally disregard them. We were separate but equal and why wasn’t that good enough? White baby boomers where insulated from the hate. That’s just the way it is we kids were told. I barely remember but I did see signs for colored drinking fountains and colored bathrooms at the old Park Theater. A hold over from the war years when hundreds of thousands of troops were training at Camp Blanding. Jim Crow laws were all around us, but we didn’t pay any attention. White privilege was excepted as normal, it’s just the way it is! Half way through the sixties big changes were coming and we baby boomers, both black and white were the vanguard for change. I played drums in a local Soul Band call ‘The Souls’. We traveled locally preforming. My first opportunity to see other small towns, eat in restaurants, just having all kinds fun and seeing the world or at least northeast Florida. We played a small teen-club that was packed and whites only. As we made our way thirty or so miles homeward, we passed a sign, along the main highway that read, ‘nigger don’t let the sun set on you’! At seeing this sign our reaction was amusement. Could not believe such a sign existed, there may have been grunts of laughter, but in our youth, we just wanted to have fun. There may have been thoughts as we drive south and home, maybe we should burn the sign down. This sign and the message inscribed has nothing to do with Jim Crow, it was pure white fear and hate. None of us had heard of Jim Crow laws. But we reacted as true baby boomers would, with discuss. Why do black people let such a sign stand? That’s just the way it is! Even before the band was formed I had another experience in my home town working at the Chevrolet dealership. On weekends I worked the gas station taking care of travelers up and down Highway 301. A study stream of gas guzzling car would keep the two of us busy. I watched as a big Cadillac pulls in with two elderly black couples. They get out of the car slowly and the Lady’s needed the restroom, with gas being pump and forgetting myself, pointed towards the inside of the office where the bathrooms where and as I finished servicing the Cadillac, my boss comes running over where the ladies were and screaming that ‘the bathrooms were broken’, said it twice. He was eyeballing me with diggers and giving the two little old ladies the same look, and a stand-off was starting and other customers were waiting to use the facilities. Cooler heads intervened and the husbands loaded their wives up and the four of them flew out of the station. The first chance the boss had free he comes up to me, gets in my face and asked why I did not follow his instruction, about bathrooms being broken. I forgot, in the moment I simple forgot to be rude. I couldn’t do it. No one should be embarrassed when it comes to bathroom rights. These two black women reminded me of my daddy’s two old-maid sisters, I couldn’t refuse them what is a normal right, and I wasn’t ready to be a hater, either. As it turned out I was out of work by Wednesday, anyway. A cousin had recently move to town and they needed my job. Summer was coming to an end and school was still not integrated. A few short weeks after the new school year started, I was called to the office where two FBI Agent stood as introductions were being made. They were investigating a Civil Rights case involving the same elderly couple from New York driving a brand-new Cadillac. Yes, I remembered. Sweet old couple trying to use the gas stations restrooms. I told them ‘you don’t soon forget refusing people who look like your relatives’, the use of your bathrooms. When it’s time to poop it time, right now! Ask anybody over sixty!

Blacks had an ‘IN’ to get justice. And a new typed of freedom-fighter was created to specifically travel through the southland setting up businesses, purposely, weeding out violators. I don’t know if that Chevrolet Dealer was convicted of a civil right law and his privilege of owning a major automobile dealership were revoked. They should have been.

As this time-line continues the band, the Souls was forming and we started playing after Friday night football games. On Saturday nights we play Fraternity Row Houses at U of F. 1966 comes alone and I’m the only one still in high school and we had to replace our singer and lucked out bringing in a black man who sang and played the keyboards. He had just left the Air Force and was a meat cutter at Winn-Dixie. It was a good fit, and the band was really a soul band now. Our new singer got us an audition at a black club located out in the boonies of east Lawtey, Florida. You had to pump sunshine in. Few white people knew anything about this black own club in Lawtey except maybe law enforcement. The band was given a Saturday night gig coming up in two weeks and talk about being excited. On the walls of this joint were the hundreds of photos of the different musicians who had performed here. The list is long and over-the-top-impressive with celebrities. That’s when Jim Crow raised its ugly head and bites us in the ass. With less than a week before our Saturday night gig, the club calls our manager to inform the band that our Saturday Night performance has been cancelled. Why we whined! Come to find out, when the cops and the city fathers got wind that an all-white band was going to perform at a black club, shit hit the fan. Sheriff office let the owner know that if the Souls perform this Saturday night, then the cops would raid the place and shut down the club. I thought the Souls playing in this venue was an incredible break and could be a spark at a time when the flame for the music was dying. Instead, we white boys and girls got a rude awakening to Jim Crow standards of conduct. The Souls were not going to be allowed to cross the color lines. Separate but equal was the law and it took baby boomers front liners to change the course of history. I remember a large billboard off of I-95 in Virginia depicted a klans man on a rearing white horse advertising the KKK. Every time, I drove to Florida from New Jersey I would see this same billboard. By the time I made my last trip down the interest that sign was still there but following apart. Years later traveling south on I-95 the sign had disappeared entirely. Nobody replaced the sign. And a little bite of Jim Crow died! So, I have a question for white people; is it necessary for the baby boomer generation of white folks to just die off to finally rid the world of racism and the ugliness of hate. Is there no grace for the white soul? Remember what I said at the beginning of this blog, white folks don’t like being called racist, even though we were all, as baby boomers born to it. Call it closet racism. We never owned a slave but most whites perpetuated Jim Crow laws, knowingly and unknowingly. Its late in human development and the world needs to be a level playing field for equal justice for all peoples. I’ve given four examples of Jim Crow law in my life. You add it all up, and it gives you a better picture of hate in America. The mental anguish that black people faced in Jim Crow America had to be over-whelming. Must this generation of white baby boomers disappear/die off for the world to be finally free. I’ll finish this post buy pointing out something hard to believe but is true, there is a Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia located on the campus of Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. I watch in amazement at a documentary presented by the curator of the museum, and I saw things I never considered before. It changed my understanding of how mean white artist became putting black people down, keeping them in their place. It was called humor and it was the worst kind of humor. Check out Jim Crow Museum. Listen to what black people said about Jim Crow. Begin to look at your roll in racism in our country. Not all white folks are racist, but most were born into racism. My mother was not a racist, my father was! Not our fault because our parents were racist. As a race it is time to face these truths. It’s the only way to move forward. The business of living will not change the facts, I was once a racist. Never again!

Jimmie Moore jimmie@moorek9.com

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