From Separate Drinking Fountains to Separate Lunch Tables
Society’s continued segregation prevents real racial healing.
In response to 2023 racial justice efforts, some white folks I know like to remind people what things were like 50 years ago.
As one acquaintance put it to me recently, “You act like we haven’t made considerable progress on race issues.”
They’re referring to a time when society was legally separate.
There were separate drinking fountains, separate restrooms, separate schools, you name it. All permissible.
States and cities literally all over the country (not just the South) legally prohibited people from consorting with members of another race. There were laws prohibiting intermarriage and other places that ordered business owners to keep their Black and white customers separated.
Georgia, for example, mandated that restaurants served either patrons who were all Black or all white, but not both. The state was so racist it wouldn’t even let Black and white people be buried in the same places.
In the North, Maryland segregated passenger railroad cars by race.
Oklahoma had mandatory segregated fishing. Even separate telephone booths. Can you imagine? A telephone booth that fits one person would be designated as Black or white only. Whites didn’t even want to occupy a space previously used by Black people. Oy.
In Texas, Black people weren’t allowed inside white-designated libraries.
Thankfully, most official laws and policies like these were overturned in the 1960s, although it took some places into the 1970s to comply.
One would think, then, society would finally integrate into one big happy American family.
But what’s happened since is the opposite, and it’s been devastating to our ability to move forward as a nation.
America remains segregated.
Most of our neighborhoods are segregated by race. St. Louis. Chicago. Miami. Kansas City. Birmingham. New Orleans. Baltimore. Just to name several.
Many of our schools similarly remain segregated. I recall volunteering in a St. Louis…