It is extremely disturbing to me when I hear gay people and immigrants—even third and forth generation—attempt to equate their problems with Blacks and the civil rights holocaust.
Allow me to simply the differences and inform you about some personal encounters. Some will seek to minimize the inhuman treatment by saying that it happened a long time ago. They lie through their teeth because racism is alive and well in 2010.
If a person is gay or lesbian and if they have not come out of the closet no one would know. They definitely would not write it on their job application. A Hispanic that did not have a green card was afforded an opportunity to work without a card, millions did. A Jewish immigrant was able to change his name from Schwartz to Smith and they became just another White person. A Polish person can change their name from Kowalski to Kane. An Irish person whose name is O’Hara changed their name to Harris and an Italian whose name is Deluca becomes Delaney. All of them instantly became White Americans. Black Americans could change their name every day but the pigmentation of their skin would reveal to the world they were colored folks.
Some Blacks have never been faced with overt racism and they, in conjunction with 75 percent of White America, can’t begin to truly understand what it is like.
I, like untold numbers of Blacks, believed that discrimination and racism were servants of the devil and was only active in the South. We failed to make note of certain facts such as there were no Black school teachers, janitors, cafeteria workers, trolley drivers, police, firefighters; we were not permitted to eat in restaurants, use certain swimming pools, dance halls, skating rinks, hotels, and a host of other restrictions. But there came a time when we decided we were not going to take it anymore.
In 1952 while serving proudly in the U.S. Army and stationed in Baltimore, Md., all Black soldiers were assigned to Baker Company. We received our clothes last and were made to understand it still was a White man’s army. We exited the troop train to eat on the way to basic training and were promptly instructed that all colored soldiers eat in the rear or outside on the picnic tables. Upon arriving in Camp Breckinridge, Ky., we were not allowed to eat in restaurants on federal land, because state law superseded federal law. There was racism galore and if you complained too loudly you were informed that you were subject to a court martial. I was threatened three times.
After being discharged from the army, several of us went to Atlantic City and were denied the right to stay in the hotels on the boardwalk. Once again our color prevented us, not our ability to pay.
I often reflect on some of our actions seeking equality. We sued the U.S. government to allow Black military personnel the right to engage in combat. Yes, the right to be maimed or die for the country. We sued entertainment venues that hired superstar Black entertainers, but barred Black customers. And the courts made them accept our money. There were Black people who applied for a job and were simply told “they were not hiring coons today.” Blacks were segregated in hospitals, denied loans to buy homes, even discriminated against when it came to buying a burial plot.
I could write incident after incident that affected Blacks based solely on color, but I hope that gays and immigrants realize that they are totally wrong when comparing their situation with the civil rights of Black Americans.
Please remember Kingsley Association.
(Louis “Hop” Kendrick is a weekly contributor to the Forum Page.)