The White society reacted to the civil rights movement violently and with brutality. The film by Stanley recounts a story of the daring actions of the civil rights movement and their attempt to bring justice to the Black society living in the United States. The story of Freedom Riders has popularly been used to demonstrate how the White society reacted to the civil rights movement in the country. The Freedom Riders is a story of brave American men and women, Black and White, who risked their lives to champion for the freedom of the Black society in a White dominated World.
The story started in May 1961 when they organized demonstrations against the laws that were seen to be discriminatory in nature. A group of 400 Blacks and Whites journeyed together in buses and trains through South (Zinn 23). This was in direct violation of Jim Crow’s laws that had defined how the Whites and Blacks should travel. Jim’s law stated that the Whites and Blacks were not supposed to travel in the same couches. The justification of this law was that Blacks were violent people, especially towards the Whites, and therefore it was important to ensure that they do not share the same couches for the safety of the Whites. This law was supposed to be observed in all the states within the country. Jim claimed that this law was meant to promote peace in the society by reducing racial conflicts that may arise when the two racial groups are allowed to share the same couches.
To the civil rights movement, this was one of the worst laws that fostered discrimination in a society that had enjoyed freedom for close to 200 years. The country was free, but a section of the society seemed to be under bondage. That is why the Free Riders organized a journey to the South in an effort to tell the American society that the Blacks posed no threat to the Whites. They also wanted to tell the world that Whites and Blacks can integrate and work together without any confrontations as had been suggested by those in power. It was a show of solidarity and a direct attack on the discriminatory laws and regulations that defined where the Blacks could or could not go.
The American police, majorly the White police officers, responded swiftly in an effort to enforce the law. The Free Riders were violating the law, and that meant they deserved punishment. Most of the buses where the Whites and Blacks were riding together were impounded and the passengers arrested for violating the law. They were subjected to savage beatings and some were sent to prison. The approach taken by the police to implement the law was discriminatory. Most of the Whites never reached the courts even though they were ready to suffer alongside their Black brothers. However, it was the Blacks who were given severe beatings and sent to jail. They did not just break the law by travelling together with the Whites, but also had a bad influence on a section of the Whites by inciting them to participate in their movement. They had to be punished on behalf of the Whites who committed the same crime because this was their fight for freedom.
Role of the Race in the Rise of the New Right after the 1960s
According to Lind, southernization of the U.S. goes beyond embracing the southern strategy as defined by Nixon and Goldwater (12). It means adoption of a culture of war in politics by the American intellectuals and leaders. It is a culture of the White’s exploitation of the Black minorities in a region widely known for slavery and slave trade even after the United States had gained independence. These scholars say that the southernization of the United States has seen the modification of national rights in our modern society. The national rights are not any different to yesteryear’s Dixie segregationists who championed for a society where some people were regarded as second-class citizens. Although the current national rights have been adjusted a little to hide the true principles of the segregationist demagogues, the rhetoric has remained the same.
Race played a major role in the rise of New Rights after the 1960s. The term New Rights first emerged in 1962 following an emergent of a movement known as the Young Americans for Freedom (Lind 54). New Rights was championed by both the Blacks and Whites, though for different reasons. For the Blacks, this was a golden opportunity to transform the country for the better. After a long period of living under the heat of racial segregation and isolationist principles, America was opening up to a new era brought about by the New Right. This was particularly good for the Blacks because it was supported by the White leaders. The Blacks saw New Right as the instrument through which they shall become members of the American society with all the rights enjoyed by the White Americans. Black American leaders played active roles in championing for the New Rights. For the first time in American history, the Black leaders got actively involved in the mainstream politics in the country. They felt that at last they had been recognized as a people capable of making positive contributions to the national politics. The Blacks were genuine in their support of the New Right after the 1960s.
According to Lind, the Whites had a completely different reason why they were supporting the New Right in America (88). In the 1960, the United States’ ideological war with the United Soviet Socialists Republic was at its fever pitch. The Americans had to win this Cold War at all costs. However, the leaders- who were predominantly Whites- realized that it needed a united front back at home to win the war. Having a substantial section of the society rebelling against the majority would not be a good image to the international society that the United States wanted to influence. Many African states were gaining independent and the United States wanted them to embrace its ideologies. To do this, the leaders had to find a way of addressing the isolationist that eroded its moral authority to influence the international society. In fact, Lind says that some leaders even feared that the Black American may consider embracing socialist principles as a show of their dissatisfaction with the governance policies of the country (97). The Whites supported New Rights primarily to ensure that the United States won the ideological war against USSR in the 1960s and 1970s.
Historical Backdrop Why Baltimore Erupted In Protest over a Month Ago
The recent eruption of protest in Baltimore is something that was expected given the historic background of this city. An interview with James Baldwin conducted 47 years ago in 1968 sets the background of what we are seeing in Baltimore today. In this interview, James Baldwin says that the street protests witnessed in Black-dominated neighborhoods are caused by the blindness of the Whites, especially the ruling class to the plight of the Blacks (Granger par. 3).
No one would want to spend his precious time on the streets causing mayhem and stalling development projects. Every rational person, both young and old, would want to spend their time making a difference in their lives and society for a better tomorrow. However, Granger says that it is not possible to make a difference while one is in the streets (par. 1). When the Blacks go to the streets, it is their future they are putting in jeopardy. However, Baldwin clearly states in this interview that in this country, the Blacks do not have a future. That is why they spend their time in the streets, demanding for their freedom so that they can be allowed to fight for their future in a world where their rights as citizens of this country are respected.
According to Badger, Baltimore has been subject to a prolonged painful history of repetitive injustices that specifically targets the Blacks (par. 1). The recent protest in Baltimore started following a murder of a Black man by police officers. This led to a protest that degenerated to violence. These discriminatory acts can be traced back to the 1950, 1960s, and 1970s. According to Badger, from 1951 to 1971, over 25,000 families were displaced in order to pave way for the construction of new schools, highways, and housing projects (par. 4). These families were left homeless, and the government did nothing to ensure that they were adequately compensated. About 90 percent of those who were displaced were Blacks.
More recently, Wells Fargo was accused of unfairly discriminating against the minorities in Baltimore who were aspiring to own homes. Many people, most of whom were Blacks, were affected by the discriminatory act of the bank. The courts found out that indeed the bank acted in bad faith against these residents of Baltimore. Badger says that the people of Baltimore are yet to forget about the mass incarceration of the 1980s and crack epidemics of 1990s (par. 6). These social injustices that keep recurring, the magnitude of their effect on the people of Baltimore, and the fact that the government always ignores their plight, motivated the recent violent protests witnessed in the city.
The Blacks living in Baltimore are registering their frustrations against the systems meant to ensure that they continue suffering even at a time when they expected things to work well for them. As Badger notes, the injustices these people face is not just unfortunate events that are unavoidable (par. 7). They are intentional and deliberate attempts by the systems to frustrate them. The killing of innocent citizens, the discriminatory displacements, destruction of properties, and the unlawful denial of loan for the aspiring Black homeowners are not coincidental. That is why the town has experienced violent protests. If these issues are addressed, similar events may be witnessed in a near future.
Badger, Emily. “The long, painful and repetitive history of how Baltimore became Baltimore.” The Washington Post, 2015: Web.
Granger, David. “James Baldwin Tells Us All How to Cool It This Summer.” Esquire, 2015: Web.
Lind, Michael. Up from Conservatism. New York: Free Press Paperback, 1997. Print.
Stanley, Nelson. A firsthand look at the 1961 rides from the Freedom Riders themselves and others who were there. Zinn Video Education Project, 2011. Film.
Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present. New York: Perennial Classics, 1999. Print.