When slavery was abolished in the United States in the 1860's, it was a blessing to a multitude of black people who had previously been "owned" by wealthy Southern landowners. However, were those people really "free"? Freedom did not suddenly mean equality and respect even though most ex-slaves were United States citizens.
In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the U. S. Supreme Court reinforced the constitutionality of separate but equal accommodations for blacks and whites. Homer Plessy was 1/8 black and 7/8 white and easily passed for white in the society of the day. When he boarded the "white" car as a test on a train in Louisiana, he was quickly arrested for violating the separate but equal law. The Supreme Court, in a 7-1 vote (one abstaining) upheld separate but equal and Plessy was fined for his transgression.
The case of Plessy v. Ferguson remained the law in the United States until 1954 when it was abolished via the decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. During the 58 years from 1896 to 1954, accommodations of blacks and whites were anything but separate and equal. Public restrooms for whites were more like what you would see off the ballroom at the Phoenician while black restrooms were more like what would be in a downtown Greyhound bus station. If you were black and went to a movie theater, you sat in the balcony and entered and left by a separate entrance.
Black citizens also suffered indignities in show business playing mainly servant roles with names like "Snowflake" or as derisive characters who bowed to the white man and were considered fools. Willie Best and Stepin Fetchit were good examples of actors from those times. Remember, these people were United States citizens.
Fast forward to 2010. Black citizens must laugh when they see illegal immigrants marching in the streets demanding their "rights" while they receive free medical attention, free schooling, and various other benefits that cost tax paying Americans millions. In addition, nine privately owned immigration detention centers across the U. S. will soon start to receive government funding to give illegals continental breakfasts, bingo, and art classes. They will also have some nice carrot sticks to munch on along with free phone service, dancing lessons, and some hanging plants to make the facility a bit nicer. I wonder what Homer Plessy would think of this. Read about it here.
The comedian Yakov Smirnoff was right when he looked at the U. S. and declared, "What a country!"
To read the other 90 comments or add your comment, click "Jim's azcentral blog" in the right column under links. You will not get a virus. Jim McAllister is a columnist for the Scottsdale Republic in Arizona.