A Trump running mate who praises Jim Crow? That's a red flag

Jim Crow was not the problem.

Jim Crow was meant to be the solution.

The problem was that Rutherford B. Hayes won the electoral college but lost the popular vote in 1876. To overcome the obstacle (there was a filibuster challenging the results), Hayes agreed to withdraw federal troops from the former Confederate states.

opinion columnist

LZ Granderson

LZ Granderson writes about culture, politics, sports, and living life in America.

In short: The Reconstruction era did not end because black Americans had achieved equality. It ended because Hayes wanted to be president.

Despite being a former Union soldier, he withdrew protection and offered blacks to the whims of Southern white supremacists who were still angry about losing the Civil War.

They were not going to be allowed to reestablish slavery. So that's where the “solution” came in. A set of segregationist laws, known as Jim Crow after a minstrel show character, were white Southerners' best attempt to restore their old way of life. When “everyone knew their place.”

This arrangement worked for Rutherford B. Hayes. Not for black southerners or the country as a whole.

Fast forward a century and a half. The laws are long dead and their harms still haunt us. If we can agree on one thing as a nation, it would surely be that we are better off without slavery or slavery lite.

So anyone who feels the need to downplay Jim Crow to gain acceptance from a crowd should probably reevaluate who they're trying to win over.

Last week, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a black Republican who wants to be Donald Trump's vice president, told voters: “You see, during Jim Crow, the black family was together.” Referring to the agency that evolved into the Department of Health and Human Services, he continued: “It was Democratic policies under HEW, under the welfare state, that then helped destroy the black family.”

He's trying to sell Trumpists on the idea that black people were better off when more than half of us lived under the control of the KKK and in poverty.

It's bad enough that Donalds desires power enough to be willing to romanticize the legislated oppression of black people. But what are his chances of actually moving up? His run for House Speaker was so short that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene didn't have enough time to complain about him.

Seemingly undeterred, Donalds is now trying to become Trump's choice for vice president by seeking the silver lining of Jim Crow. These racist laws had no positive side. Black families were suffering because of him. Whenever black communities began to prosper too much, white supremacists were able to murder residents and burn down businesses without being held accountable, as happened in Tulsa, Wilmington, Atlanta…

In 1919, a union of black sharecroppers was formed to negotiate better working conditions and wages. His community in Arkansas was greeted by a racist mob of hundreds of people, which left more than 200 black people dead, including children. The mob kidnapped and tortured 12 men, forcing them to make a false confession of insurrection when in reality they were only pursuing the American dream.

A case representing six of them (Moore v. Dempsey) eventually reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in 1923 that they had been denied due process because a mob dominated their trial. The governor of Arkansas commuted their death sentences to prison sentences and they were allowed parole in 1925.

They had not committed any crime but spent six years in prison. More than 200 other members of his community committed no crime but were executed by a mob.

When black conservatives today talk about the “Democratic plantation,” I wonder if they have a name for the plant they live on. Because I do it.

To suggest that the black community was better off after federal troops left the South, you have to ignore the lynchings. Arguing that blacks fared better during Jim Crow would require someone to overlook the fact that the authors of the laws had waged a war to prevent blacks from becoming citizens.

In the decades after 1870, when the Fifteenth Amendment gave black men the right to vote, the Hayes administration did nothing as Southern states passed laws aimed at suppressing their voices. There were literacy tests from which white southerners were exempt. Whites did not have to pay poll taxes. Laws restricting where black people can be in public.

Even after the 19th Amendment finally gave women the right to vote in 1920, Jim Crow laws prevented many black women from doing so.

So if someone like Donalds tries to tell you that black people did better during the days of Jim Crow, remember this: those laws were written to keep us in our place.


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