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Segregation in the South?
December 19, 2005 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Is there still segregation in the South (of the U.S.)? Are there still white only establishments that still exist?
posted by pelican to Society & Culture (36 answers total)
 
Not legally, although de facto white-only and black-only organizations certainly exist across the U.S. (not just in the South).
posted by mediareport at 8:37 PM on December 19, 2005


Public schools? Jonathan Kozell describes the state of public schools in the United States in September's Harpers in an article called "Still Seperate. Still Unequal." Urban public schools are almost exclusively black or black with other minorities. It's not explicitly segregated but segregation emerges from society's organization.

So there is still segregation in the south because there is segregation throughout the entire country.
posted by stuart_s at 8:38 PM on December 19, 2005


There is talk of starting a "all-boys high school primarily for black teenagers" here in Chicago.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 8:46 PM on December 19, 2005


Not legally, although de facto white-only and black-only organizations certainly exist across the U.S. (not just in the South).

I'm pretty sure they exist everywhere, even outside Amerikkka. For example, the Radnorshire Bowling Centre in Llandrindod Wells, Wales is de facto all white (gasp!). And 95% elderly. But it is de facto all white. Probably because of some antebellum conspiracy shipped across the atlantic.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:49 PM on December 19, 2005


my high school was 97% white.

it was sad that I represented the minority population of my high school. and i didn't even know we had a black guy in my class until I looked at my senior yearbook.

suburbia representin'.
posted by Stynxno at 8:52 PM on December 19, 2005


I think pelican is mostly asking about places with forced (or close to it) segregation, not really places where it happens more because there simply aren't as many minorities around. Otherwise it's not really much of a question =)

For example, my high school was at least as white as Stynxno's, but it certainly wasn't due to segregation, but rather the fact that the local population was almost entirely descended from Western and Eastern European immigrants (for example, lots of Polish folks).

I can remember less than a half-dozen black and Hispanic kids each, with only slightly more Asians, and like two Indians-from-India (one of whom was my class's valedictorian), out of a school with ~600 students.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 9:01 PM on December 19, 2005


Um, so yea. That's not segregation. Now, if you had that same distribution of ethnicities in a high school in New York City, I'd be much more likely to consider some nefarious social force at work.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 9:04 PM on December 19, 2005


In Wilmington, North Carolina (see the post on the Blue in re the race riots of 1898) a neighbor of mine, a carpenter on large construction projects, claimed to have visited, with a black coworker, a restaurant (the Pender Cafe) in the early 1990s which had a sign encouraging black people to go elsewhere. I'm not sure how credible this is; in 2001 when I arrived there was no such sign. My feeling, based on what I know of my neighbor, is that he probably encountered hostility but not any explicit condemnation (that's the Southern Way, after all). While I definitely found Wilmington, and the South in general, to be an oppressive and discouraging place, I also felt that most of the discrimination was based on class and income rather than race. On the other hand, there were clubs (mostly the ghastly college-kid dance clubs where people drank things like Sex on the Beath) which had signs prohibiting things like do-rags and 'baggy clothing.' There were black people in these clubs, but you couldn't dress too black.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:15 PM on December 19, 2005


My high school didn't allow do-rags and baggy clothes, either. I think this has more to do with looking classless than black. I know a good many clubs that also don't allow ratty t-shirts and cutoff jeans. Plus, you can hide weapons in baggy clothing more easily.

I'm from the South, and I don't think I've ever encountered anything like segregation. The thing about some schools, even in racially mixed areas, being nearly single-race is true, but that has to do with two factors, I think:

1) In a lot of places, black people and white people just live in different parts of town. I assume that is a preference... while a (white/black) neighborhood might not be thrilled to have a (black/white) family move in next door, there's not much they can do to stop it. In fact, in all but the most backwoodsy of places, most people probably wouldn't care. It is my understanding that many people in other parts of the country -- particularly the Northeast -- have as much or more of a problem with their neighbors being of a different race. Racism is not a uniquely Southern thing at all.

2) Many Southern cities do have mostly-white private schools that opened up in the 60s and 70s. Some say it's an attempt to keep a racially-separate school system; others argue that the quality of education dropped dramatically with integration and the founders were just parents looking out for their kids' best interests. I think a decent argument can be made for both, though nowadays I think the second reason is less convincing.

Aside from that, the most segregated places I can think of -- in the South or otherwise -- are the churches. But I don't think that's forced, either, as the style of the churches is so different. I think most people of one race would welcome someone of another race to their church. (Again, I am basing this off most Southerners and excluding the super-backwoods people, who I am not sure exist in significant numbers anymore anyway.)
posted by SuperNova at 9:42 PM on December 19, 2005


It seems most of the examples/responses cited here don't limit their answers to "just the South".

What motivated the Southern context of this question pelican?
posted by jca at 9:46 PM on December 19, 2005


In Jacksonville, Florida I think that everything is pretty much de-segregated. Obviously there are still traditionally white and black areas of town, the Northside, Downtown, and parts of Arlington being heavily African American. Jacksonville is probably quite unique for a large Florida city in that it has over 1 million residents but only about a 5% hispanic population.

At any rate, the schools were forced to bus children around from their native highschools in order to complete desegregation. I belive that my highschool was 40% black. I'm not aware of any areas that are white or black only, although there are definitely some parts of town where white or black people would be unwelcome (and it may be dangerous).
posted by mhuckaba at 9:46 PM on December 19, 2005


In Montgomery, Alabama you've got to look long and hard to find a public school that's not at least thirty percent black. Maybe in some of the rural areas. Private schools, of course, are a horse of a different color. Er, so to speak. A lot of them - particularly of the YourNameHere Baptist Church Academy persuasion - have sprung up recently and a lot of them are lilly white.

There are some neighborhoods that are still all white, but that's changing all the time and realtors have gotten in trouble for trying to steer black couples away from houses in all white neighborhoods.

About ten or twelve years ago, the parents of my then gf were trying to sell a house they owned in a very small town not too far from Montgomery, a place whose chief claim to fame is that it's home to the only three year, bible based all-women's college in the US. It's also home to a military academy. And the academy was bringing in a retired officer to fill a teaching position. It so happened that the man was black and he wanted to buy the aforementioned house. My gf's parents were desperate to sell it as they owed quite a bit of money and they didn't think they'd get another offer anytime soon (they'd erred in building a very upscale three or four bedroom house in a very working class area. Most of the people willing to buy in that area didn't have the necessary cash or credit). This retired officer was the first nibble they'd had in quite a long time. However, the locals - including people at the bank and the realty company - didn't want to sell to the officer because of his race. And keep in mind here: these folks owed the bank money. The bank knew damn good and well that, without the sale, they were going to have to eat the debt. But they, apparently, preferred that to allowing an African American live in their town.
posted by Clay201 at 10:01 PM on December 19, 2005


In some small, small towns in middle-of-nowehere Oklahoma (where I am from) there are still places with signs saying "No Ni***rs." I've seen them in restaurants, but I'm really talking middle of nowhere here — not the type of place anybody would even be "passing through" because they're so off te beaten path. Also, some places have signs warning black visitors to be especially careful after dark.

Government agencies (such as public schools) can't discriminate, but private businesses and institutions can do whatever they want. For the restaurants it falls under the guise of "right of refusal."

Also, there are a few private all-black universities and colleges in the South U.S., including one in Oklahoma.
posted by Brittanie at 10:29 PM on December 19, 2005


Is there still segregation in the South (of the U.S.)? Are there still white only establishments that still exist?
posted by pelican


You might find the occasional all white golf club which skates under the law, but you can find that anywhere in the U.S.

Also, we have running water, the internet, hee-haw went off the air years ago, and the dukes of hazzard wasn't a reality show. You should visit us down here sometime, ya hear?
posted by justgary at 11:51 PM on December 19, 2005


Gated communities - not just in the South.

My aunt lives in a gated community in S. Carolina - she's in the extreme minority of people there of Asian descent (she married a Caucasian - there were other multi-generation Asian people in the community, but there were more crocodiles roaming around than people of African descent).

Segregation seems, to me, to be enforced more by economics (you're not allowed here because you can't afford to pay $xxx,xxx/year) and hindrences in improving "one's lot in life" than in blatant "you're not allowed here because of your phenotype."
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:25 AM on December 20, 2005


According to Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, there are still thousands of 'sundown towns' - so called because non-white people are not welcome after dark - across the US. Interestingly, most of the alleged sundown towns are not in the South.

(NB, I've not read the book yet, and have no idea whether it's to be taken seriously, but it's by a University of Vermont sociology professor, so I'm guessing it's not made up nonsense.)
posted by jack_mo at 4:45 AM on December 20, 2005


See also: the Wikipedia page on Sundown towns
posted by jack_mo at 4:49 AM on December 20, 2005


I know a black man who, travelling across the South in the 1970's, was routinely refused service in hotels and restaurants. He was an officer in the Army was wearing his uniform and traveling with several white officers, yet the color of his skin kept him out. That is ancient history, but I was surprised to hear that such blatant segregation at places of public accommodation still existed then.

Government agencies (such as public schools) can't discriminate, but private businesses and institutions can do whatever they want. For the restaurants it falls under the guise of "right of refusal."

I do not believe that to be true. The Civil Rights act prohibits discrimination in hotels, restaurants, and other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce. Any restaurant or hotel which accommodates out of state guests is considered in interstate commerce under this law.
posted by caddis at 5:03 AM on December 20, 2005


Brittanie writes "but private businesses and institutions can do whatever they want. For the restaurants it falls under the guise of 'right of refusal.'"

I thought restraurants are prohibited from discrimnating on racial grounds? Something about interstate travelers and the interstate commerce clause?
posted by Mitheral at 5:15 AM on December 20, 2005


Brittanie writes "but private businesses and institutions can do whatever they want. For the restaurants it falls under the guise of 'right of refusal.'"

Mitheral: I thought restraurants are prohibited from discrimnating on racial grounds? Something about interstate travelers and the interstate commerce clause?


Someone needs to file a complaint with the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission. Mission Statement: Enforce Oklahoma's Anti-Discrimination Act which prohibts discrimination of employment, housing, and public accommodation; accept, serve and report on complaints of racial profiling, and promote unity and understanding through educational outreach for Oklahoma.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:57 AM on December 20, 2005


Brittanie is wrong. Private businesses in the U.S. are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of race.
posted by mediareport at 6:35 AM on December 20, 2005


This is why I live in a city: There is this barber who put up a whites only sign.
posted by _zed_ at 6:53 AM on December 20, 2005


Of course there's de-facto segregation here in Louisiana, but there's also something more striking. At least some of the annual festivals in the towns around here will have a black festival and a white festival. I've seen, and ridden in, black Mardi Gras parades, or trail rides. I've been to a black, or "creole" festival. I had heard about the festival, but when I started asking around about it, most people said they didn't know anything about it. I believe that from people who are not from around that town. From local law enforcement, not so much. I get the feeling this practice is more of a "you go your way, and we'll go ours," kind of thing than a result of discrimination from whites. But there is that, too. I have seen blacks at the "white" festival, but rarely whites at the "black" festival.

Another interesting thing around here: Creoles. In Acadiana, there are two definitions of creole, depending on who you talk to. For people who define themselves as creoles, it means a person descended from more than one generation of mixed parents. Part of the definition appears to be the ability to pass for white, or at least pass unnoticed. Creoles, by virtue of their ability to pass, and because white people mostly remain ignorant of their existence, look down equally on black and white. (The "creole" festival I described above wasn't a creole event, but they decided to call it that rather than a black event.)

For older white people, I've gotten the impression they see this definition as impertinent, and will tell you a creole is a person born in the new world of european parents. Since this hasn't really defined a group of people here for almost two hundred years, I think it's just old Cajuns being cranky.

There are towns in this area that are known to be black, white or creole. These distinctions are fading, but if you hear someone's from Grand Maire, or Coteau, you can be pretty sure they're creole.

There was a bar in Gueydan, a very small town in south Louisiana that had an informal unwelcoming policy about black people. This was about six years ago. Somebody at the bar turned away three black guys on New Year's, one of whom happened to be a Sheriff's deputy. The Justice Department got involved, and as I was told, the owner had to post a large sign about discrimination in the bar, like one of those workplace posters on OSHA or what have you.

A friend of my fiancee's brought a black guy with him to this famous bar out in the boonies here, because he knew it would piss everybody off, which he enjoyed immensely. He was a regular, and big enough so noone would screw with him.
posted by atchafalaya at 7:16 AM on December 20, 2005


_zed_, ironically, that guy's shop is in the town where I live. I had a sinking feeling when I saw the URL from the link.

From his street address, I can tell you he's right in the center of the black part of town. So when he says he doesn't intend any discrimination, just an inability to cut black hair, he might be telling the truth. Not that he's not a dumbass; I'm sure he's got no great love for black people, either.
posted by atchafalaya at 7:38 AM on December 20, 2005


Also, there are a few private all-black universities and colleges in the South U.S., including one in Oklahoma.

These private, as well as the public ones, in the South, as well as the rest of the US, will and do accept white students. They just don't get that many applicants.

Country Clubs and Private "white-flight" academies are about the only place where there is an open policy of discrimination. As noted above there is de facto discrimination, particularly in churches, funeral parlors and hair cutteries, but that's true all over America.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:55 AM on December 20, 2005


>but private businesses and institutions can do whatever they want. For the restaurants it falls under the guise of 'right of refusal.'"

Business don't have to serve anyone, but when pressed for an answer for their actions, the reason cannot be "because they were black/white/jew/italian."

If someone feels threatened they can turn down service. If someone finds people are acting like jackasses then they can turn down service. etc. Its something of conspiracy theory thinking to equate right of refusal with stealth racism, although right of refusal can be exploited by racists and bigots of any stripe. Any person who feels they're being discriminated against can take it up with their state's attorney or with a civil lawyer.
posted by skallas at 8:20 AM on December 20, 2005


Bottom line, though, is that it's illegal to discriminate on the basis of race in private businesses as well as government agencies. Brittanie's framing seemed not to recognize that - as if the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins didn't start at a Woolworth's lunch counter.
posted by mediareport at 8:37 AM on December 20, 2005


But really, if you don't want to hire xyz potential employee, for any reason, the law says you have to? How exactly is that private business? Sounds more like whiners getting all up in my face like you got some right to work for me business. If a business doesn't want to hire xyz person, for any reason that's their liberty. There is no right to work.
posted by vanoakenfold at 9:20 AM on December 20, 2005


I also have a friend (a white guy) who went to Grambling, an HBC, historically black college.

His take on it: the faculty were either the best, or horrible. The best, he said, were black people who had made it in their chosen fields, and returned to the college to pass something on. He described them as Calvinists, emphasizing hard work and persistence.

The worst, he said, were black people who had reached their positions by some route other than strict competence. Those, he said, stressed that the world was unfair, and that there was little hope for blacks.
posted by atchafalaya at 9:53 AM on December 20, 2005


>the law says you have to?


No don't have to hire anybody but, federal law states you cannot discrimante on a variety of factors:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin
posted by skallas at 10:30 AM on December 20, 2005


If I was black, I sure as hell wouldn't walk into some of the places my stepfather took me in Alabama. To do so would be putting my life in danger.

So that level of segregation certainly still exists.
posted by Kickstart70 at 11:02 AM on December 20, 2005


But really, if you don't want to hire xyz potential employee, for any reason, the law says you have to? How exactly is that private business? Sounds more like whiners getting all up in my face like you got some right to work for me business. If a business doesn't want to hire xyz person, for any reason that's their liberty. There is no right to work.


If that reason is the color of their skin then you have violated the law. It has nothing to do with a right to work, but everything to do with a right not to be discriminated against because of the color of your skin.
posted by caddis at 11:25 AM on December 20, 2005


To add to atchafalaya's comments about the term Creole. I'm also from Louisiana but from the New Orleans and Washington Parish area (north of the lake). We used the term in two ways. One to differentiate between the Cajun French and the French who settled prior to their arrival. We called the later "Creole French". The second way we used it was, as atchafalaya said, as a term for someone of mixed race.

I was born in 1960 and spent most of the first 15 years of my life in east Louisiana and south Mississippi. I have memories from my childhood of plates mounted next to water fountains labelling them "colored" and "white" and of separate waiting rooms at doctor offices. I don't remember ever seeing a sign saying that someone wouldn't be served because of their race. I think that was because there was no need for a sign, those who wouldn't be served already knew.

I still live in the south, Memphis, and I have not seen an establishment that has an overt policy of segregation in many, many years. Admittedly, I haven't spent much time in very rural areas in quite some time. There is still some segregation but I think it is the result of economic factors or just social habits. The churches are probably the most segregated institutions. (If you visit Al Green's church you'll see a mixed crowd but that's the only one I know of. I think blacks would be welcome in most white churches but why would they want to come? So damned dull...)
posted by Carbolic at 12:25 PM on December 20, 2005


But really, if you don't want to hire xyz potential employee, for any reason, the law says you have to?

Of course this isn't cut-and-dried. If you, an employer, don't hire someone, the law says you have to have an acceptable reason - you hired someone better qualified, you decided to leave the position open for a while, you thought the person didn't have the right experience or education or physical dexterity, whatever. But it's illegal to decide not to hire because of skin color or gender.

Is that easy to prove? Of course not. But if an employer has a large number of only (say) white employees, in an area with significant minorities, the employer is asking for a lawsuit (and an investigation by the government).

So, yes, you can be bigot or sexist or whatever without going to jail simply because of your beliefs, but if those beliefs result in a discriminatory hiring pattern, then there definitely can be legal consequences, particularly if the discrimination is widespread and blatant.
posted by WestCoaster at 12:39 PM on December 20, 2005


If I was black, I sure as hell wouldn't walk into some of the places my stepfather took me in Alabama. To do so would be putting my life in danger.

What type of places are you referring to?
posted by jca at 2:06 PM on December 20, 2005


The most segregated city in the US is in the north.
posted by QIbHom at 2:19 PM on December 20, 2005


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