Last night I stayed up until 2:30 AM watching a remarkable documentary: Hitsville – The Making of Motown, which covered the years between the record company’s beginning in 1958 and its move to Los Angeles in the 1970’s.
What comes out of the movie, intended or not, is the degree to which this country, with the exception of South Africa, was the most racially segregated country in the Western world until the last several decades.
What made the white-black division so strong was not the laws per se, or perhaps I should say the lack of laws, but rather, the size and extent of the population which was kept segregated by customs and laws.
When I went to Europe for the first time in 1969, the only blacks I saw in France and England were American GI’s. When I visited London for the first time in 1970, the area occupied by immigrant from India was larger and more populated than the neighborhood consigned to the blacks.
I was born and raised in Washington, D.C. and attended a segregated school until the 5th grade. This wasn’t a private school – this was the public school system which was segregated until the integration was ordered after the Supreme Court pronounced Brown v. Board in 1953.
One of the black families which moved into our neighborhood was headed by a man who had been the only black commander of a warship – a submarine tender in the Pacific – during World War II. He returned to his native Richmond, VA in 1945 and got a job going door to door delivering mail.
From commanding a ship in a battle zone to walking around with a mail sack – that’s what racial segregation in this country was all about if you were black and born before 1980 or thereabouts.
The Motown documentary pointed out that the first black singers to ever appear on the Ed Sullivan show were the Supremes who did a number in a show in December 1964. When a bunch of Motown groups did a concert tour throughout the United States in 1966, they appeared before audiences in many cities where the theater seats had a rope down the center aisle separating blacks from whites.
In 1999 or 2000, my stepdaughter told me that she and her boyfriend, who was black, were going to drive to Florida to spend a few days at South Beach. I told her they needed to drive straight through because they wouldn’t be able to rent a motel room on the way down.
Her response? She asked me what I was talking about. And by the way, they had no trouble staying somewhere in South Carolina overnight.
What is so remarkable to me about how this country has changed, racially-speaking, over the last forty years, was how even the vestiges of what had been an absolute and unbreakable racial divide between whites and blacks had completely melted away.
Except that a guy named Donald Trump resurrected this mentality and used appeals to the sordid mentality of racism to help vault himself into the Oval Office in 2016. And if you want to believe that Trump’s campaign rallies don’t evoke images of meetings organized by the Klan, then you’re either stupid, or blind, or simply have never attended a meeting of the Klan.
What I really don’t understands is how anyone can believe that Trump has the slightest chance of winning another term if he’s on the ballot in 2024. But I have said in previous comments that I never thought Trump was running because he necessarily wants to win.
The Bible says (Jude 1:14) it will take seven generations before God sets things straight. We’re still more than fifty years away from when we passed the 13th Amendment which gives Trump a daily opportunity to say the most racist things in public and draw a digital audience of considerable size.