LUNCH COUNTER

This was passed around the internet for the past few days. It's a picture of a 1960 lunch counter sit-in at a Woolworth's in Greensboro, NC.

counter-sit-in

I like this picture a lot (and this one, with the bespectacled fellow and that "Well, I guess this is what's gonna happen now" look on his face). The customers have that look on their faces that combines excessive confidence and pure terror in the way that only 19 year old kids can pull off. The most interesting thing about it, though, is that the employee behind the Whites Only lunch counter is also black. That's curious, since on the scale of intimate social contact one would think that having someone handle your food ranks above sitting next to a fully clothed stranger on adjacent stools.

When I first saw this picture and learned about this period in our history (or more accurately, learned it formally and from someone who wasn't using the N-word regularly) I thought that racism was about believing that another race is inferior. Like most people I got (slightly) wiser with age and eventually figured out that racism is about keeping someone else beneath you on the social ladder. You know, that Gene Hackman line from Mississippi Burning ("If you ain't better than a nigger, son, who are you better than?") If you actually thought black people were dirty savages you wouldn't eat anything they handed you. But of course it has nothing to do with that. You're fine being served food because servility implies social inferiority. And you don't want to sit next to them simply because it implies equality.

It's pretty simple, then, to understand these last-ditch efforts on the part of hayseed legislatures to legislate discrimination based on sexual orientation. Very few of them are stupid enough to believe the excuses that they put forth as their motives. To maintain my faith in humanity I have to believe that some of them understand that these laws aren't going to stand up in court anyway and this is all a big waste of time. It helps, though, to understand it for what it is: a desperation move by a group of people who are no longer socially relevant to assert their superiority, and to codify the idea that they are Better Than someone who is in some way different.

In a couple of decades they will look just as pathetic to us in hindsight as the knuckle-dragging segregationists do to us today. Then again I'm starting to think that some of us look back on them as heroes. Let's not spoil the ending for them.

Be Sociable, Share!

25 Responses to “LUNCH COUNTER”

  1. US in the UK Says:

    "In a couple of decades they will look just as pathetic to us in hindsight as the knuckle-dragging segregationists do to us today."

    Yes, so glad *that's* behind us.

    I think they're still taking a few swings at that particular fastball in the voting rights arena and, you know, dog-whistle politics about the President.

    Recently I was surprised to learn that a fairly well-educated acquaintance of mine finally let go of the "them black people bought more house than they could afford" explanation of 5 trillion dollar global financial crisis. Yep, negros can't pay the rent, that's why the entire economic world has ground to a halt (well, for most of us anyway).

  2. Drew Says:

    I often wonder what great things could be done if all the money that is in play for anti-gay laws/politicians/rhetoric could be used for something like childhood education or pre-k. But instead, we have these people throwing this obscene amount of money around, betting against the inevitable outcome.

  3. Sarah Says:

    I often wonder what great things could be done if all the money that is in play for anti-gay laws/politicians/rhetoric could be used for something like childhood education or pre-k.

    Don't be silly. That'd be socialism.

    See, the thing with right-wingers spending obscene amounts of money on things like LGBT discrimination, or anti-abortion legislation, or various forms of voter displacement, or oil wars, or efforts to repeal Obamacare–and there are some rumblings about impeachment now–is that those are all things that serve their agenda.

  4. Anonymouse Says:

    @drew: "I often wonder what great things could be done if all the money that is in play for anti-gay laws/politicians/rhetoric could be used for something like childhood education or pre-k." When I was in elementary school, there was an "after-school club" for the kids to attend. It was like a drop-in community center for school-aged kids, held in the school gym. There was no cost; if children wanted to attend on any particular day, they could just show up. There were board games and jump ropes and a basketball net, and a couple of adults around to supervise. This was before many mothers worked. Now that most mothers work, there is nothing like this around. I mentioned this to my mother, and she got out her Tea Party soapbox about how "b****es need to keep their legs closed" and they won't have to worry about daycare. Nice.

  5. John Danley Says:

    Gerrymandering for the corpse of Roger B. Taney is never a good chess move for the chronicles of legislation.

  6. c u n d gulag Says:

    Basically, our Reich-Wing politicians are putting on this sh*t-show for their hate-and-fear-filled base, lest someone even further to the Reich primaries them, and they lose their phony-baloney jobs.

  7. GunstarGreen Says:

    They know that the legislation has no chance in hell of surviving the courts. It's all political kabuki theater. The Republicans are putting on a show for their bigoted base so they can get their entries into the "batshit insane enough to not be labeled a RINO" contest early. The problem in Arizona was, Brewer is just wild-eyed crazy enough to actually approve the bill, so now the thugs on the right are sweating bullets and tugging on their collars begging her to veto the bill THEY voted for. They never imagined it would get this far, and now they're afraid of what will happen if it ever actually DOES pass.

    The American Right has a problem. For the last 30 or 40 years they've banked on the extreme fringe right xenophobe crowd to achieve victory. Goldwater's fears have come to pass: by pandering so heavily to the fundamentalist crowd, they've allowed those insane hate-mongers to take control. Nowadays, it's not possible to run on the R ticket unless you can prove to the zealots that you're just as fucking crazy as they are. And they are completely willing to burn down the house to get rid of that flea they hate so much.

    Interesting times ahead, as the rats finally start to realize just how fast their ship is sinking.

  8. DaveDell Says:

    "We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Anyone", was posted prominently at a drug store/soda fountain in my entirely white neighborhood in the late fifties. I had no idea it meant blacks. I thought it was meant for high school students being too boisterous.

  9. OliverWendelHolmslice Says:

    I'm wondering what happens the first time a Muslim or gay person refuses service to a conservative Christian because their religion forbids them from aiding and abetting assholes. They are going to lose it.

  10. Sarah Says:

    I'm wondering what happens the first time a Muslim or gay person refuses service to a conservative Christian because their religion forbids them from aiding and abetting assholes. They are going to lose it.

    Way ahead of you. A supermarket in London was allowing its Muslim staff to refuse to sell alcohol and pork during last Christmas season. The reaction was ::yawn:: predictably stupid.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2527820/Marks-Spencer-tells-Muslim-staff-CAN-refuse-serve-customers-buying-alcohol-pork.html

  11. BigHank53 Says:

    Fox news on Muslim taxi drivers refusing passengers carrying alcohol:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/2007/04/16/some-muslim-cabbies-in-minneapolis-refusing-service-to-passengers-with-alcohol/

    Yeah, they lost it.

  12. Whatver Says:

    Drew, think of all the money wasted on bitcoin, or shitty blockbuster-budget movies, or state and local tax breaks to corporations that then move somewhere else, or DARPA research in startup corporations given away for basically free to big business, or, cornfed morons that think they owe no part of their existence to federal subsidies, or ….

  13. Jeff Jones Says:

    Three of the R senators that voted for it are already backpedaling, saying they were rushed into it. (Gov) Brewer is a pawn of the Owners so, yeah, this homophobic comedy hour may be over soon, gods willing, w/ a veto. Embarrassing horse doodoo for the mostly normal folks of Arizona (the Alabama of the southwest.)

  14. ladiesbane Says:

    First, on racism: let's not forget how it intersects with class and politics. I still love this quote from LBJ on why poor whites had so little solidarity with poor blacks: "If you can convince the lowest white man that he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll even empty his pockets for you."

    Friday marks the 38th anniversary of Alabama AG Bill Baxley's reply to the Klan, after he reopened the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing case and the Grand Dragon (who also started Alabama's States' Rights Party) sent a letter of protest. His reply, in its entirety: ""Dear 'Dr.' Fields: My response to your letter of February 19, 1976, is — kiss my ass."

    When I learned about that, it made me want to cheer. And there are certain Americans who defy scorn in their alliance with the LGBTQ community. But you know who's not on board? Among others, the Baptist Church. Don't you think they'd remember how it felt to be hated? And maybe decide to hate less in return?

    But keeping the poor stupid and embattled is right wing policy. International finance is hard to understand, as is diplomacy, as is law, and so on — but if you give people something simple, something they can stand on that requires only feelings about rather than thoughts, they will be happily distracted, ignoring whatever else their so-called betters are doing with the country.

    Of course, their great unwashed have begun demanding their politicians fall into line with their whimsical religious convictions, whether it's anti-gay or anti-sex or anti-education or anti-choice. (Remember when prominent Republicans were allowed to be pro-choice?) But it keeps them occupied, so who cares about civil rights? "Screw You, I Got Mine" applies to much of the right-wing philosophy.

  15. mothra Says:

    Thanks BigHank and Sarah—I was remembering the right wing outrage at Muslims trying to exercise their religious freedom…IOKIYANAM (It's Okay if You Are Not A Muslim).

  16. Robert Says:

    There was a report a while back on some pithecanthropus rejectus who requested that the 'negroidal' bagger at the market not touch his groceries. He was barred from the market. Sucks to be on the wrong side of history.

  17. Skipper Says:

    Well, anyone who has ever even walked by a law school knows that these laws wouldn't stand scrutiny. So you have to wonder what the reason was for coming up with them. This is what worries me. What were they after? And what good would come from this? They must have something up their sleeve. What is it?

  18. Sarah Says:

    When I learned about that, it made me want to cheer. And there are certain Americans who defy scorn in their alliance with the LGBTQ community. But you know who's not on board? Among others, the Baptist Church. Don't you think they'd remember how it felt to be hated? And maybe decide to hate less in return?

    Well, there's this. (To be clear, the dude tweeting that isn't endorsing it, just passing it along.)

  19. Freeportguy Says:

    The current GOP anti-gay push is nothing but a diversion from the real issue: jobs!

    Not only does the GOP satisfy its base by putting gays up, front and center, they are doing nothing on jobs and economy, including NOT voting down jobs bills.

    Now, as we get close to the mid terms and then 2016, guess what issue the GOP will put ahead: jobs and economy! And they will put ALL the blame on Democrats…who will by then have been kept busy the whole time putting out anti-gays fires!!

  20. Drew Says:

    @ladiesbane: " "Screw You, I Got Mine" applies to much of the right-wing philosophy."

    You know that GOP stands for "Got Our Part", right? ;)

    Drew

  21. mothra Says:

    DARPA research

    Careful, there, dude. DARPA's what got you the internets…

  22. Andrew Says:

    The law may not withstand court scrutiny, but as soon as it is passed, it becomes the law, and people will suffer from its effects until a court acts. And there's always the chance that it WILL withstand court scrutiny.

  23. Bitter Scribe Says:

    Oh ugh. Why did you have to ruin a perfectly good post by quoting from Mississippi Burning? That ridiculous travesty of a movie pretended that the FBI were good guys who protected people in the civil rights struggle instead of slandering MLK and bugging his phones.

  24. moderateindy Says:

    I think that racism, Well perhaps bigotry is a better term, is all about tribalism, and self esteem. No matter what your economic level, or status in life, one can always feel superior to another part of society based upon whatever makes them different than yourself. I wonder if that is why the black community is fairly homophobic. African Americans are crapped upon on a regular basis, so the gay person is an easy target. Someone they can look down upon, thus making themselves feel superior.
    I think the best example of how the tribalism/self esteem thing plays out is high school sports rivalries. The high school that served the suburb right next to mine was in an area barely more affluent than mine. In fact, for the most part the kids that went to both schools were basically carbon copies of each other. Yet there was animosity towards them because they were the "rich kids" and everyone knows that rich kids are jerks. Thus, our tribe was better than theirs. Even if there is no obvious difference, tribalsim takes over, and one is manufactured. Of course than you go to college, and meet a whole bunch of them, and realize how silly your attitude was. Kind of like how the more gay people that came out , the more people realized that pretty much the only thing that made them different from you was who they were attracted to. The ignorance was removed, and familiarity is the big reason attitudes have changed so drastically. It's way easier to despise and discriminate against someone that is a total stranger. Once them "queers" were no longer strangers, but folks you knew, the whole paradigm shifted.