Massive Resistance in Norfolk


On July 17th in Richmond, there was a symposium examining the effects of “Massive Resistance” and the heroic efforts of many to integrate public schools in the 50’s and after. As dark as that history is, today’s progress lends hope that things can still get better and that other profound problems can one day find remedy.

I came across a recent article on this symposium in the Richmond Times Feel free to go there and read what happend. In case you missed it, the Virginian Pilot had an excellent series on “Massive Resistance”. Pretty informative for those of us that were born in later, brighter years. The pictures in the paper served as a point of pride for a co-worker of mine that was excited to let me know that his family was related to one of the Norfolk 17. He pointed her out in a photo of the reunion in Norfolk.

As a Libertarian, I also hold certain truths to be self-evident. We are all created equal. As small children, we wouldn’t even think to discriminate on the basis of the level of skin pigment. How could adult minds become so twisted? How could one possibly justify……rationalize subjecting a group of people to a lower status on the basis of particular appearance? What if mankind never had the power of sight? Would some person in the name of profit and power, decide to asign a lesser status based on the pitch of your voice? Possibly. People at one time were falsely accused of witchcraft simply to have a rival burned at the stake. If you can persecute someone based on imagined circumstances, is there any limit to the darkness mankind is capable of?

Sometimes one can feel depressed when they consider man’s potential to do evil. I choose to find hope in those that despite harsh circumstances and risk, decide to fight for liberty. I celebrate those black children that endured and went to school when they were not welcomed. I also celebrate those (black and white alike) that fought to send them to school despite personal and political pressures. They are what heros are made of. They are sources of hope.

-Britt Howard


3 Responses to Massive Resistance in Norfolk

  1. Don Tabor says:

    There aren’t that many of us left with personal memories of those times when schools were segregated, especially those who lived in areas where the demographics made desegregation more than a token issue. So, I will put down some of those memories, keeping in mind that they are memories as seen by a politically unsophisticated preteen boy and not a 60 year old Libertarian.

    Prior to desegregation, I lived in Thibodaux, LA, which was a typical Southern town, with Black and White neighborhoods and schools. These neighborhoods were small and scattered, there was not a Black side of town(in those days, we said Colored, as Black would have been seen as rude, and anyone who used the “N word” was seen as the scum of society) the block on St. Phillip St. I lived on was White, but the next two blocks toward downtown were White on the North side of the street, but Colored on the South side. St. Charles St. was Colored East of 7th St., and White the rest of the way to Bayou Lafourche.

    There was a vacant lot one block from my house where boys gathered after school to play softball every spring afternoon. There were not enough White kids in the neighborhood to make up teams, so we had to wait until the bus from the Colored school arrived, about 15 minutes later than ours, before we could choose up sides and get the game going, so we set up the bases and waited for our Colored friends to arrive. I was not an athlete by any means, so I was often one of the last to be chosen, and it never occurred to me to feel slighted because I was chosen after most of the Colored kids had already been picked.

    I guess the point I am trying to make is that though I now realize how wrong segregation was, at the time, it was just how things were and there was no animosity, at least at the kid level. I had White friends and Colored friends. I was closer to my White friends simply because we shared the same teachers and ate lunch together, but I did not know anyone who personally hated anyone because of their race.

    Desegregation changed that. I recognize that it was necessary and that the old ways were wrong, but I lost my Colored friends as desegregation polarized the town by exposing the rot of prejudice that had existed out of sight before.

    Over the years, subsidized housing projects were opened and the little Colored neighborhoods scattered around town were ‘redeveloped’ out of existence. For the first time, there was a White town and Black town (Colored had fallen from favor). Few kids after desegregation played ball with kids of other races. Hatred and prejudice became the norm.

    I think that is passing now, and real integration is beginning to take hold, but for 50 years, we paid for that improvement with a lot of bitterness.

    So, to finally get to the point, those who remember only the years of massive resistance and forced desegregation and the racial hatred we have seen most of our lives might think it was always that way, and that much of the country lived in this hatred all along. That is simply not the case. Prior to desegregation there was certainly inequality, but we were blissfully unaware of it and everyone seemed to get along a lot better.

    I don’t defend segregation, but I wish we had found a better way to end it. I suspect that given a bit more time, kids playing ball would have done away with it as an uneconomic interference in our lives that never really served a useful purpose.

    And unnecessarily delayed the game.

  2. This will be a bit long, but some subjects cannot be adequately discussed in a sound bite.

    Segregation is not evil, but rather a response by humans to associate with those who are like themselves, or who share common interests. People will self-segregate, by race and gender, in the absence of any force or incentive to do otherwise. There have been some interesting studies on this subject. A recent study that was done in California prisons noted that prisoners would elect to self-segregate into Asian, Latino, Negro and Caucasian groups. Even in prisons where multi-racial cells were maintained, when the convicts were released into common areas, they again would self-segregate by race.

    If our government was destroyed and we were left free to associate into communities, the research indicates that we would most likely form our communities along traditional tribal and racial lines. There is no evil to this, just human behavior.

    Contrary to government and main stream media propaganda that bombards us with messages that we must be “inclusive” and that touts the wonders of “diversity,” having a workplace that includes people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds may be interesting or even entertaining, but diversity adds no value. What adds value, is having a MERIT based environment where excellence is rewarded and everyone is given the incentive to do their best work.

    The sooner we move away from this diversity nonsense and forward to a MERIT based society, the sooner people of all backgrounds will see that they have a genuine chance to make it in America, based solely on their performance, and not merely due to their temporary selection as some sort of minority pet of the corporate elites.

    Mr. Tabor is right with regard to the error made by the Johnson Administration in constructing massive housing projects. Those projects concentrated poverty and crime into a small area that caused the hollowing out of many of our finest cities. Of course, the rationale of the day was that the projects would be close to town so that workers could walk or ride main bus lines to work. The collateral reason was to put into place a major Democratic voting block in the heart of major metro areas, across the nation.

    The projects must be torn down and replaced with dispersed units that are no more than quad-plex in size. These units must be spread all around so that the inhabitants and their offspring have every opportunity to learn from their more prosperous neighbors.

    It is not “racist” to acknowledge the findings of research regarding the typical human behavior toward self-segregation. It is foolish NOT to recognize such a reality and work with that knowledge so that, in circumstances where multi-ethnic cooperation is required, the citizens are educated as to their common ground interests. Some examples would be sanitation, food safety, economic opportunities and health facilities.

    Our military has done a fair job of establishing relationships across the racial divide by appealing to each member’s sense of accomplishing the mission. The Pentagon self-sabotages this initial constructive step toward team-building, by having a socialized promotion scheme in place that ensures token appointment of incompetent minority group members to positions of leadership, instead of only selecting those who have demonstrated the highest MERIT to positions of leadership. Colin Powell has acknowledged this failure by our military, admitting that without “affirmative action’s racial preferences” he would never have made it past Lieutenant. Of course the corollary to Powell’s admission, is that there are, more capable, White men throughout our military who are being routinely passed over for higher leadership, because of the military’s racial/gender quotas.

    Who would you want to lead you into battle?

    Diversity adds no value. By establishing a MERIT based society, everyone will have a fair chance to succeed and advance, based on their performance, not due to some flavor-of-the-month approach to racial or gender preferences.

  3. Britt Howard says:

    For the record, I believe in freedom of association. If you choose to mix only with people just like you, that is your choice.

    The problem here was enforced segregation and in many instances, not all, a gigantic disparity in the quality of education. Probably in all cases, black only schools suffered huge funding disadvantages. That only goes to prove that since some black only schools produced stellar students, that just throwing money at schools won’t create a good education.

    Ya know, what went on back then was just evil. You can’t rationalize it just because you are correct in stating that diversity for its own sake should not be enforced and that we should have freedom to associate with those we choose. That does not mean that a whole section of citizens can be shafted when it comes to assets provided to the rest.

    Back then, probably diversity was the only thing that would break the shackles of racial persecution. If you were black, you didn’t have the same opportunities, were not allowed to use certain bathrooms and beaches. Not too many white people were getting lynched.

    So, I agree that diversity at this time should not be forced. I agree with freedom of association. Keep watching my comments and you’ll quickly learn I am one of the first to attack political correctness. I do, like you, want a MERIT based society.

    However, let’s not muddy the issues. Let’s admit to ourselves that the way people were persecuted baqck then based on their outward appearance was evil and something to be ashamed of.

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