Colbert King: More to ‘get over’ than slavery

The Washington Post’s Colbert King puts into words much better than I why Frank Hargrove’s remarks are so repugnant. He, too, has seen the property records, listing his ancestors. But rather than focusing completely on that, he talks about the vestiges of slavery, the things witnessed in Del. Hargrove’s lifetime:

Hargrove, who will be 80 next week, cannot escape the fact that he and many white Virginians alive today were present when the spirit of Jim Crow reigned supreme in the Old Dominion.

Hargrove was 17 when the Virginia legislature passed a law requiring separate white and black waiting rooms at airports. Surely he must have heard about that.

When Hargrove was 29, Sen. Harry Byrd declared massive resistance to the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown decision desegregating public schools. Did he miss that?

What did 31-year-old Hargrove think in 1958 when the General Assembly passed a series of laws to prevent school desegregation, including a measure forbidding state funds to be spent on integrated schools? That was a memorable year. And the next year, Prince Edward County went to an extreme to protect lily-white education. It closed the school system rather than integrate.

Recall (courtesy of the Virginia Historical Society) this repugnant chapter of Virginia’s racial history that occurred in Hargrove’s time:

? On Feb. 20, 1960, students from the historically black Virginia Union University entered Woolworth’s department store on Broad Street in Richmond, sat at the lunch counter and patiently waited to be served. Instead, the management closed the store.

? On June 9, 1960, an integrated group of youths sat at a Peoples Drug store lunch counter in Arlington. Waitresses served the whites, then walked away. A few minutes later, the lunch counter was closed.

? In 1963, protesters gathered in front of the College Shoppe Restaurant on Main Street in Farmville. Management refused to serve blacks. Sheriff’s deputies, in keeping with Virginia’s Jim Crow laws, forcibly removed them.

You know, I have to admit that when this whole Hargrove mess started, I had no idea who he was or why he would have said something like this. Then I saw a video of him and realized that Del. Hargrove is not a young man. I have the tendency to give older people a pass – the way they were raised, I’m usually surprised if the don’t hold views like this. But after reading the comments on PilotOnline’s coverage of this, after reading the ones posted on Kerry Dougherty’s article and blog, after reading those left on the Washington Post, I am sorry to say that the overwhelming number of people actually agree with him. And I doubt if many of the commentors are nearly 80, like Hargrove.

A lot of the comments are transparently racist and laced with venomous insults hurled at black people. “Get a job” as if black folks don’t work, “stop having babies” as if blacks are the only ones that have children, “I can’t get a job because it was set aside for a minority” when we know that the largest group to benefit from affirmative action is white women. These people have learned these attitudes from the Hargroves of the world. And as long as each generation teaches the next this stuff, we can never move forward. Contributing to the problem is the media.

Our media focuses on the negatives of blacks and reinforces the stereotypes, rarely delving into the whys behind it all. Oh, sure, during Black History Month they trot out articles about Booker T. Washington or George Washington Carver. But where are the articles about the effect of Johnson’s War on Poverty on the black family? Or the ones about the effects of segregation on the education of blacks? Or the ones about Norfolk’s rule of appointing all boards and commissions with the same racial makeup as council? Or the ones about why there is a mistrust in the black community of the “system”? Doesn’t the media have any responsibility to educate the public and try to reconcile the fact that the contribution of blacks to our society help to make this country what it is?

When we stop teaching folks that blacks are second class citizens, I’ll get over slavery.


4 thoughts on “Colbert King: More to ‘get over’ than slavery

  1. A lawyer friend told me of an incident in Arlington around 1962 or 63 where a black DC cop tried to take his kids on a picnic in Arlington’s Bon Air park. He refused to leave when told to do so and was arrested and prosecuted … we’re talking Arlington here, a place now so liberal of reputation it’s ridiculed as the People’s Republic. Now age 49 I still have dim memories of a whites only lunch counter at Parkington, which is now known as Ballston Commons, and I’m told that Arlington’s first black Circuit Court judge, Thomas Monroe, who was also the first black member of the Arlington Bar Association, was not allowed to eat at the lunch counter near the Courthouse. His white colleagues used to go in and buy his lunch for him as a take out order.

    So where was Hargrove when all this stuff was going on? Was he remonstrating with his colleagues and neighbors and family and telling them Jim Crow was wrong? Was he arguing for fairness and color-blindness? I don’t think so. The system could never have lasted without the assistance, passive or active, of the whites who benefitted from or just plain ignored it. One of my favorite Catholic concepts is that there are sins of commission and sins of omission. Sometimes we sin just by not acting when we should. Time to apologize.

  2. There is a feeble “what I did was wrong” statement in his book. Does that count as an apology? As a distant relative of his I am sure that we all have racist branches on our family tree. I can proudly say that as a teenager I had the opportunity to personally witness and hear Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. I was there with my parents who supported the march and especiallywanted me to see and be a part of history. If you’re not a part of the solution – you’re a part of the problem!!! Right is Right and Wrong is Wrong. Slavery was wrong! I have no problem with proclaiming an apology. Do you?

  3. Racism in this country needs to be dealt with. The white community has avoided an indepth dialogue on racism for too long. No one is taking personal responsibility and looking at the race issue and actually LISTENING OPENLY to what our brothers and sisters of color are trying to tell us.

    Sitting in silence over Hargrave’s remarks is a silent affirmation of racism. Whites who have taken the time to educate themselves on racism,speak out when racism rares it’s head.

    This issue is not going away until we deal with it. And when it’s dealt with maybe we can measure the progress by noting that there will no longer be a “need” for black history month because the history being taught the other 11 months of the year is not simply “white” history but a history of “all” U.S. citizens….(and I’m not even going to touch the “sexism” issue here.)

    The purpose of learning about racism is not to become “guilty.” But to free oneself from the racist paradigms so that we can all move forward united as one diverse community.

    I think the phrase, “Minds are like parachutes. They only function when open” is appropriate when it comes to the whites in this country dealing with racism.


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