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UVA’s Andrew W. Kahrl says the Starbuck’s racial incident highlights a problem white northerners long ignored

Historians in the News
tags: racism, Jim Crow, Black History, Starbucks, Andrew W, Kahrl



Andrew W. Kahrl, an associate professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Virginia, is the author of “Free the Beaches: The Story of Ned Coll and the Battle for America’s Most Exclusive Shoreline.

Related Link Starbucks and the issue of white space By Jelani Cobb

... In contrast to the Jim Crow laws of America’s dark past, these laws supposedly apply to everyone. But in practice, they clearly don’t. Like most middle-aged white people, I have spent countless hours in Starbucks without buying anything. Plenty of white people have barbecued, blasted music and drunk alcohol at that same Oakland park, without anyone calling the police.

The selective enforcement of minor ordinances, as many critics note, performs the same work today that segregation laws did in the past. But it would be inaccurate to call this a new form of Jim Crow. What it is, rather, is a form of Jim Crow that whites in the North have been developing since the early 1900s.

As white segregationists in the South were placing “whites only” signs in the windows of restaurants, in the North, more enlightened (or, rather, more savvy) white proprietors and public officials realized that rules restricting public spaces to local residents and the strict but selective enforcement of laws against things like disorderly conduct and loitering could be used to impose racial segregation.

Take public beaches. In the South, white officials literally drew color lines in the sands and the waters off shore. In the “racially liberal” Northeast, towns devised elaborate, and ostensibly colorblind, procedures for determining who could access public shores, and what they could bring and do once inside, and then proceeded to enforce them for black and brown people only.

In the 1930s, Long Branch, N.J.,passed an ordinance requiring all residents to apply for a pass that would allow access to only one of the town’s four public beaches. Town officials claimed the rule was meant to prevent overcrowding. Without exception, though, black applicants were assigned to the same beach and were denied entry to the others. ...

Read entire article at NYT

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